January 16, 2023 | Flash Brief

Hamas Releases Video of Israeli Hostage Held Since 2014

January 16, 2023 | Flash Brief

Hamas Releases Video of Israeli Hostage Held Since 2014

Latest Developments

Hamas released an undated Hebrew-language video on Monday purporting to show Avera Mengistu, one of two Israeli civilians the Palestinian terrorist group is holding in the Gaza Strip. The group has held Mengistu captive since 2014. It also holds Hisham al-Sayed, an Israeli citizen from a Bedouin town in the Negev desert.

Both Mengistu and al-Sayed have histories of mental illness that predate their captivity. The person in the video, who resembles photos of Mengistu released by his family, describes himself as a “prisoner” of Hamas, and asks: “Until when will I be here, in captivity — me and my friends?” Last June, the terror group released footage of al-Sayed, lying in bed and connected to a ventilator.

Expert Analysis

“Hamas’ abuse of civilians — which FDD has documented in connection to the terrorist group’s use of Palestinians as human shields — also extends to Israeli captives. The cynicism of putting mentally ill hostages on camera, rather than repatriating them immediately as humanitarian norms dictate, is an egregious violation of international law. Nor can Israel be expected to accommodate such a horrendous enemy on its terms.” — Mark Dubowitz, FDD Chief Executive

“This video is part of a deliberate campaign by Hamas to push the new Israeli government into a deal that would release hundreds of convicted Palestinian offenders, many serving life sentences for terrorism. Yet Israel has learned from the mistakes of previous exchanges that favored Hamas. This is the third attempt by Hamas in the space of a year to goad the Israeli government into an agreement, which suggests Israel refuses to take the bait.” — Joe Truzman, Research Analyst at FDD’s Long War Journal

Israel Attempted to Negotiate Release of Mengistu and Others

Israel has been conducting low-key and indirect talks on recovering Mengistu, al-Sayed, and two soldiers who went missing in action during Operation Protective Edge in 2014, Hadar Goldin and Oron Shaul. Based on forensic evidence from the battlefields, Israeli authorities declared Goldin and Shaul dead and held funeral rites. Their families have been campaigning for a deal to return what remains of their bodies for a proper burial.

Hamas has not confirmed the two soldiers’ deaths, and, in a bid to increase domestic pressure on Israel for a prisoner swap, has dangled the possibility that one or both is alive. But, unlike with Mengistu and al-Sayed, it has provided no proof of life for either Goldin or Shaul.

Further Analysis

Hamas Publishes Information on an Israeli Held Captive Since 2015,” by Joe Truzman

Hold Hamas Accountable for Human-Shields Use During the May 2021 Gaza War,” by Orde Kittrie