Mother of captive Israeli rejects Hamas recording

Mother of captive Israeli says voice in Hamas recording not her son's
3 min read
07 June, 2021
Hamas released a recording purported to be the voice of a captured Israeli soldier. Media speculate that the voice could be of one of two captives held by the Gaza-based group.
Avira Mengistu and Hisham al-Sayed are Israeli civilians held by Hamas militants in Gaza [Getty]

The mother of an Israeli man held captive in the Gaza Strip has rejected claims that the voice in a recording recently released by Hamas belongs to her son.

The recording, shared with Al Jazeera, features the voice of a man who says he is "an Israeli soldier held captive by the Iz al-Din Al-Qassam Brigades", Hamas' armed wing.

"I wonder and hope that the State of Israel still exists. If it does, I wonder again if the country's leaders are thinking about the captives, worry about them and are working to release them," the captive goes on to say.

"I die every day all over again," he continues.

The voice in the recording, which Hamas' claims be of a captured Israeli soldier, adds that he hopes to see his family again soon.

Israeli media outlets speculated the voice belongs to Avera Mengistu due to his Ethiopian accent, although he is not a soldier.

Mengistu has been held by Hamas since 2014 when he crossed over to the Gaza Strip.

The 34-year-old suffers from severe mental health issues and was not taking his prescribed medication at the time of the incident. He was exempted from mandatory military service a year earlier due to his mental health conditions.

His mother, Agernesh Mengistu, said she is "certain" the man in the recording is not her son.

"That is not his voice," she was quoted as saying by Haaretz.

"I am waiting for my son and hope to see him soon, just as I have been promised all along."

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Another Israeli civilian is currently held captive in the Gaza Strip.

Hisham Al-Sayed, 29, is a Palestinian citizen of Israel who crossed into the besieged enclave through a hole in the Israeli border fence in 2015.

Sayed volunteered to serve in the Israeli military in 2008 but was deemed unsuitable after just a few months, sources told Turkish state news agency Anadolu. Local media reports indicated Sayed was also mentally ill.

Both Mengistu and Sayed have been held incommunicado since their entry to the Gaza Strip, with Sunday's recording the first possible sign of life of either of the two men.

Hamas has previously referred to the two Israeli citizens as soldiers.

Two Israelis in active military service were captured by Hamas in 2014.

Israeli authorities say they were killed that year but doubts remain. Hamas has neither confirmed nor denied their deaths.

Yaron Blum, the Israeli official responsible for prisoners of war and members of the armed forces missing in action, said the recording was a "cheap and transparent manipulation".

"Israel is perfectly aware of the situation of [soldiers] Hadar Goldin and Oron Shaul, may they rest in peace, and of the two Israeli civilians Hisham Al-Sayed and Avera Mengistu who crossed the border to Gaza," Blum told Haaretz.

The release comes amid reports of potential negotiations towards a prisoner exchange.

A 2011 exchange saw Israel release more than 1,000 prisoners in return for the freeing of captive soldier Gilad Shalit.