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January 16, 2023 5:15 pm

Hamas Releases Purported Video of Israeli Hostage; Israeli PM Slams ‘Despicable Media Stunt’

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A man identifying himself as Israeli citizen Avera Mengistu, who has been held captive in the Gaza Strip since 2014, in a video published by Hamas on January 16, 2023. Photo: Screenshot

Hamas, the US-designated terrorist organization that controls the Gaza Strip, on Monday released a video recording purporting to show Avera Mengistu, an Israeli citizen who has been held captive in the Islamist-controlled enclave for nearly a decade.

Mengistu, who immigrated to Israel from Ethiopia as a child, has been missing since he crossed into Gaza on September 7, 2014, just days after the cessation of a weeks-long conflict between Israel and Hamas that included an IDF ground incursion.

The video was released as Maj. Gen. Herzi Halevi assumed his position on Monday as chief of staff of the IDF, following a four-year term by Maj. Gen. Aviv Kohavi.

In the video, Hamas said it was “underscoring the failures of the outgoing chief of staff ‘Kohavi’ and his institutions, and his lie to his nation and his government,” and called on Halevi “to prepare himself to bear the burden of this failure and its consequences.”

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The video then cut to about 11 seconds of footage showing a man wearing a button down shirt and a microphone against a white background, identifying himself as “the prisoner Avera Mengistu.” The man questions how long he will remain where he is, and where the nation and government of Israel are. There are no obvious markers indicating the date of the footage.

Speaking to Israeli media, Mengistu’s mother, Agurnesh, said she recognized her son in the video. The office of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, which did not confirm the authenticity of the video, called it “a cynical and despicable media stunt … which proves more than anything that Hamas is frustrated and under pressure.”

Hamas is currently also holding captive Israeli citizen Hisham al-Sayed, a Bedouin who crossed into Gaza in 2015, as well as the bodies of fallen IDF soldiers Hadar Goldin and Oron Shaul, both killed in 2014. In June, Hamas released a video claiming to show al-Sayed laying on a bed while wearing an oxygen mask.

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