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Two Israelis held in Gaza, one by Hamas

09 July 2015, 15:23

Jerusalem-Two Israelis are being held captive in the Gaza Strip, including one detained by Hamas after crossing into the territory last year, Israel's defence ministry said Thursday.

The ministry said that "according to credible intelligence" Avraham Mengistu, an Israeli of Ethiopian descent, "is being held against his will by Hamas in Gaza."

"Furthermore, the defence establishment is currently dealing with an additional case of an Israeli Arab also being held in Gaza," it said in a statement, without providing further details on the second person.

Hamas had not yet commented on the case.

The statement said that Mengistu slipped into the Palestinian territory ruled by Islamist movement Hamas on September 7, 2014, shortly after the end of a 50-day war between Israel and Hamas.

"Israel has appealed to international and regional interlocutors to demand his immediate release and verify his well-being," the statement added.

The case had previously been kept quiet due to an Israeli gag order, which was lifted on Thursday by a judge in the southern city of Ashkelon, where Mengistu lived, local media reported.

The reports said that information on the unidentified Israeli Arab was still under a gag order.

Israeli media said that authorities had decided to allow the story to be released in the hope it might spur negotiations for their release.

In 2006, Gaza militants captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit and held him for five years before freeing him in exchange for more than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners.

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