The United Nations refugee agency is accusing Israel of kidnapping a Palestinian engineer from a Ukrainian train three weeks ago and confirmed his wife's fears that he is being held in prison by the Israeli secret service.
Dirar Abu Sisi, 42, went missing "under unknown circumstances" in the early hours of Feb. 19 after boarding a train in the eastern city of Kharkiv bound for the capital Kiev, according to Viktoria Kushnir, a spokeswoman for the Interior Ministry. He was in Ukraine applying for citizenship.
Gazan website Al Risalah, which is associated with the Hamas, reported that the Gaza strip interior minister Fathi Hamad sent a message to his Ukrainian colleague demanding that immediate steps be taken to expose the reason of Abu Sisi's disappearance and ensure his safe return to his family.
Human rights organizations told a Hamas website that his Israeli lawyer managed to visit him at a prison near the Israeli city of Ashkelon. Maksim Butkevych, spokesman for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Ukraine, said Abu Sisi has been in custody in Israel since shortly after his disappearance. The UN agency believes he was abducted and illegally transported by Israeli security forces, perhaps with the aid of Ukrainian counterparts.
"We don't know details of his trip from Ukraine to Israel - let's put it this way," said Butkevych. "But unfortunately, what happened looks like a violent abduction and not a legal extradition or any other legal action on the part of authorities."
Abu Sisi's Ukrainian wife, Veronika, 32, alleges the Israeli secret service Mossad carried out the abduction in order to sabotage a key electric power plant in the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip where he worked as a senior manager.
Abu Sisi's daughter with his picture (Photo: AP)
"I don't suspect it, I am sure of it," Abu Sisi told the AP in a telephone interview. "My husband was the heart of the only electric station in Gaza, or rather its brain. It's a strategic object and they wanted to disable it."
She denied speculation that her husband may be wanted by Israel as a known Hamas sympathizer, saying he had never engaged in politics or any violent groups.
In Gaza, fellow engineers and neighbors described Abu Sisi as a Hamas supporter, pointing to his senior position. He served as the deputy head of the electric power station and posts are traditionally staffed by Hamas loyalists.
Abu Sisi, a Jordan native and father of six, was in Ukraine trying to apply for citizenship after spending 12 years in the Gaza Strip.
Veronika Abu Sisi said the family decided to return to Ukraine after life in the Gaza Strip became unsafe for their three daughters and three sons and her husband flew to Ukraine to apply for citizenship in January.