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May 3, 2017 4:16 pm

Human Rights Watch Blasts Hamas for Holding Israelis With Alleged Mental Illness

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Avera Mengistu, an Ethiopian Israeli who allegedly suffers from mental illness and is held by the Palestinian terror group Hamas. Photo: Provided photo. – Human Rights Watch (HRW) Wednesday condemned the Palestinian terror group Hamas for its detention of two Israeli citizens who are believed to suffer from mental illness.

Hamas, the ruling faction in the Gaza Strip, is believed to be holding Israeli citizens Avera Mengistu (since September 2014) and Hisham al-Sayed (since April 2015) after the men voluntarily crossed into the coastal territory.

Hamas has insisted the two Israelis are soldiers, but HRW noted that Mengistu was rejected by the IDF due to mental illness and Sayed was discharged from the military after only a few months of service.

HRW also reported that a third Israeli citizen, Jumaa Abu Ghanima, entered Gaza in July 2016, but it is unclear if he joined a terror group or was arrested by Hamas.

Hamas has not officially confirmed its detention of Mengistu and Sayed, but has published videos on social media using their images.

“No demand can justify disappearing and bartering over the lives of men, particularly those with serious mental health conditions,” said Omar Shakir, HRW’s director for Israel and the Palestinian territories.

“We just want to ask Hamas why are they holding him? What is the reason?” he told AFP. “They say he is a soldier, an officer, in the Israeli army. This is a lie.”

Mengistu is of Jewish-Ethiopian origin, and Sayed and Ghanima are both Bedouin Arabs. The case of the missing men has received little attention in Israeli media, but Mengistu’s detention has riled Ethiopian Israelis, who regularly coordinate demonstrations demanding that the Israeli government assist with his release from Gaza.

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