Some 8,000 people attended a rally in the southern city of Be'er Sheva on Wednesday evening, calling for an Israeli citizen and the bodies of two IDF soldiers killed in a war six years ago to be returned.
Hamas has been holding the bodies of IDF soldiers Oron Shaul and Hadar Goldin since 2014, when they fell in combat during Operation Protective Edge. Along with the bodies of the two soldiers, Hamas is also holding Avera Mengistu and Hisham al-Sayed - two Israeli citizens who crossed into Gaza in 2014 and 2015 due to suffering from a mental illness.
The event was held at an outdoor amphitheater in the city and attended by members of various organizations fighting for the cause as well as representatives of bereaved families, prominent business people and popular Israeli musicians.
Among the main speakers were the parents of Goldin, a brother of Shaul as well as the brother of the Ethiopian-Israeli citizen.
"Is there anyone here who can explain to me why thousands of Gazans are entering Israel for work, while my son is still in Gaza?” said Simha Goldin, the fallen soldier’s son. “Can anyone explain to me why Israel is helping to build hospitals for Hamas, while Avera Mengistu has not taken his medication in five and a half years?" he added.
Ilan Mengistu, Avera’s brother, implied racism is behind Israeli government’s inaction in bringing back the mentally ill young man.
"This Friday, it will be 2000 days since Avera has been seized by Hamas,” he said. “Would they have treated a child with a different skin color another way?” A child from Caesarea? The country would have turned on its head to bring him home,” he said.
“Unfortunately, Avera is Ethiopian and is therefore transparent,” he said, adding, “Likud, only Likud,” which might have been a sarcastic call to vote for the ruling party in the coming elections.