JERUSALEM: An Israeli civilian is being held against his will by the Islamist group Hamas in the Gaza Strip, Israel said on Thursday. Hamas, the Palestinian enclave’s dominant faction, declined to comment.
Israel fears militants in Gaza will use its citizens as bargaining chips for the release of Palestinians held in Israeli jails.
Israel’s Defence Ministry said there was “credible intelligence” that Avraham Mangisto, born in 1986, a resident of Ashkelon, the nearest Israeli city to the Gaza Strip, “is being held against his will by Hamas in Gaza”. It said he had crossed the border on foot on Sept. 7, 2014.
The ministry’s statement also said: “The defence establishment is also dealing with an additional case of an Israeli Arab who is being held inGaza.” It did not give details.
Gilad Shalit, an Israeli soldier who was abducted by militants in a cross-border raid in 2006, was released after more than five years in captivity in exchange for more than 1,000 Palestinians in Israeli jails.
Israeli Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon said earlier this week Israel was seeking the return of the remains of two soldiers killed during last year’s Gaza war.
Israeli media said Mangisto crossed of his own volition into the Gaza Strip, circumventing the border along the beach.
The Defence Ministry said Israel had “appealed to international and regional interlocutors to demand (Mangisto’s) immediate release and verify his well-being” and would “continue to pursue the release and return of the citizen to Israel.”
In the 50-day war that ended last August, more than 2,100 Palestinians were killed, mostly civilians. Israel put the number of its dead at 67 soldiers and six civilians.
Israeli air strikes and shelling hammered the densely populated Gaza Strip causing widespread destruction of homes and schools. Hamasand other militant groups launched thousands of rockets and mortar bombs out of the enclave into Israel.