Photo Credit: Abed Rahim Khatib / Flash 90
Hamas fighters register Palestinian children for "Saif Al-Quds" military camps in Rafah, in southern Gaza, June 14, 2021.

Israel dismissed Hamas’ claims about the deterioration in the health state of one of the two Israeli civilians it is holding in captivity as a provocative and a ploy to gain attention.

Abu Obeida, a spokesman for Hamas’ Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades military wing, announced Monday that the health situation of one of the Israeli prisoners held in the Gaza Strip has deteriorated.

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He further added that more details on the matter will be published later but has yet to do so.

Hamas is holding Avera Mengistu, an Israeli with mental health issues who willingly crossed the border into the Gaza Strip several years ago and has since been held by the terror organization. Hamas is also holding Hisham al-Sayed who crossed the border into Gaza several years ago.

In response to inquiries from journalists, the Prime Minister’s Office has stated that “Hamas has proven yet again that it is a cynical and criminal terrorist organization, which holds mentally ill civilians in violation of all international conventions and laws, as well as the bodies of fallen IDF soldiers.”

Israel said that Hamas is “responsible for the state of the captured civilians” and it will “continue its efforts, mediated by Egypt, to bring home the captives and the missing, with responsibility and determination.”

At this point, the security system believes that Hamas’ announcement is psychological warfare, possibly with the aim of pressuring Israel to release terrorists as part of a prisoner exchange before the government falls.

Hamas has been holding the two citizens as well as the two bodies of fallen IDF soldiers killed in the summer of 2014 during Operation Guardian of the Walls as bargaining chips, a violation of the Geneva Conventions and International Humanitarian Law. The Israeli government has been negotiating for several years with Hamas, with no progress.

The remains of IDF soldiers Lt. Hadar Goldin and Staff Sgt. Oron Shaul, who were killed during Operation Protective Edge in Gaza in 2014, are thought to be held by Hamas.

Goldin, of the elite Givati Reconnaissance Unit, was killed and abducted by Hamas during a battle with terrorists. Two other IDF soldiers also died in the incident. The battle ensued hours after an UN-sponsored ceasefire came into effect.

Shaul was killed in battle together with another six Golani soldiers in Shajaiya when their armored personnel carrier was hit by an anti-tank rocket. His body was never recovered and is assumed to be held by Hamas.

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Aryeh Savir is director of the International division of Tazpit News Agency.