The mother of Avraham Mengistu, 28, weeps during a family press conference, at the costal city of Ashkelon, Israel, Thursday, July 9, 2015. An Israeli security official said Thursday the Hamas militant group has been holding Mengistu in the Gaza Strip for nearly a year. The Israeli defense body responsible for Palestinian civilian affairs, said Mengistu, born in 1986 from the Israeli city of Ashkelon, independently crossed the border fence into the Gaza Strip in September last year, nearly two weeks after the end of the Israel-Gaza war. (AP Photo/Tsafrir Abayov) (Tsafrir Abayov/AP)

Baskin: Hamas says Mengistu refused to go back to Israel

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Avraham Mengistu

Avraham Mengistu

Hamas sources told Baskin that they did not keep track of Mengistu and they believe he went to Sinai via a tunnel and have no knowledge of his whereabouts.

Hamas released Avera Mengistu and thinks he left Gaza, Jerusalem Post columnist Gershon Baskin said Thursday. It was cleared for publication on Thursday that Mengistu crossed over the border into Gaza on September 8, 2014, and Israel contends that he is in Hamas captivity.

Baskin was involved in back-channel negotiations with Hamas for the 2011 release of captive soldier Gilad Schalit, and remains in contact with officials in the terrorist organization.

Baskin recounted that roughly six months ago, Ethiopian-Israeli activists told him about Mengistu’s disappearance and asked him to use his contacts to find out about his situation.

“Hamas told me that [Mengistu] crossed into Gaza, was arrested and then interrogated by the police and the military wing,” he said. “They determined that he was not mentally stable, and decided to return him to Israel. He refused to go back to Israel and was released in Gaza.”

Hamas sources told Baskin that they did not keep track of Mengistu and they believe he went to Sinai via a tunnel and have no knowledge of where he is, as opposed to the Beduin Israeli, whom Hamas says they are holding captive.

The Hamas political level asked the Qassam Brigades and police to report on Mengistu’s whereabouts, which Baskin said indicated that someone thought the Israeli could have been a bargaining chip, but all they know is that he is not in Gaza anymore.

Baskin said he calls his Hamas contacts almost every week and always gets the same answer.

As for Israeli officials saying that Hamas is lying, Baskin said: “I don’t know the truth, I just believe that if Hamas was holding on to him, they wouldn’t deny it. They would use him as a bargaining chip.”

Lahav Harkov

Lahav Harkov

Lahav Harkov, the Knesset reporter for The Jerusalem Post,has interviewed major figures across the Israeli political spectrum and is well-connected to the country's top lawmakers.
Harkov is often invited to lecture on Israeli government and politics, and international news outlets, such as the BBC, France 24 and Sky News seek her insights and analysis about breaking news. She has published articles in The Jewish Week and the Hebrew-language newspaper Makor Rishon, as well as Jewish culture website Jewcy.
Harkov grew up in New Jersey, making aliyah at age 17, where she did two years of National Service (Sherut Leumi) at museums dealing with Jewish and Israeli history. Harkov has a degree in Political Science and Communications at Bar-Ilan University, where she is currently pursuing a Master's degree in Creative Nonfiction Writing.
Lahav Harkov

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