Hamas says medical condition of Israeli captive deteriorating

Terror group did not specify whom it was referring to, but Israeli nationals Avera Mengistu and Hisham al-Sayed are believed to be held alive in captivity; Israeli sources dismiss announcement as 'provocation'

Elior Levy|
The Gaza Strip terrorist group Hamas said Monday evening that the medical condition of one of the Israelis held in its captivity is deteriorating.
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  • The group said it would divulge further details in the coming hours. It was not immediately clear whom the group was referring to, but Hamas is holding two Israeli nationals who are believed to be alive — Avera Mengistu and Hisham al-Sayed.
    2 View gallery
    Abra Mengistu, and Hisham a-Side
    Abra Mengistu, and Hisham a-Side
    Avera Mengistu and Hisham al-Sayed
    (Photo: Courtesy of the families)
    Israeli sources said they estimate the announcement is a provocation for the eighth anniversary of the 2014 Gaza war. The sources added they were not aware of any change in the medical condition of the two prisoners.
    A Palestinian source in the Gaza Strip told Ynet the announcement was intended to bring back the prisoners and missing persons issue to the public discourse in Israel.
    According to the source, Hamas wants the announcement to put pressure on mediators trying to advance negotiations between Israel and the terror outfit regarding a prisoner swap deal.
    Israel and Hamas have been engaged in on-and-off talks on a potential prisoner swap agreement through Egyptian mediation.
    The source believes the Hamas' military wing will try to offer Israel a video to prove its claim through the mediators, but it could not say whether Hamas would demand something in return.
    2 View gallery
    Hadar Goldin and Oron Shaul
    Hadar Goldin and Oron Shaul
    Hadar Goldin and Oron Shaul
    (Photo: Courtesy of the families)
    Another possibility is that Hamas may announce the death of either Oron Shaul or Hadar Goldin — two IDF soldiers who are believed to have been killed in action during to 2014 war and whose bodies are still held by Hamas. The group claims that Shaul and Goldin are still alive, as are Mengistu and al-Sayed.
    After Prime Minister Naftali Bennett's meeting with Egyptian Abdel Fattah el-Sisi in Sharm El-Sheikh Last September, senior Israeli officials said that Jerusalem was not willing to release terrorists "with blood on their hands" as part of a potential swap deal with Hamas but was showing "great pragmatism" in negotiations.
    "Israel is very serious. Egypt is a serious and significant player, and its top brass is involved," the officials said, adding that the prisoner and missing persons issue was a major sticking point in finding a long-term solution for the Gaza Strip.
    Avera Mengistu voluntarily crossed into Gaza in September 2014 and has been missing since, as did Hisham al-Sayed in April the following year. Their families have claimed over the years the two were facing mental issues.
    Al Jazeera aired last year an audio recording in broken Hebrew of someone Hamas claims is an Israeli soldier it is holding captive in the Gaza Strip. Hamas refers to both Mengistu and al-Sayed as soldiers even though they were not in active military service at the time they crossed the border and were abducted.
    Audio recording of 'captive Israeli soldier' released by Hamas
    (Video: Al Jazeera)
    "I am an Israeli soldier, held in captivity by Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades (Hamas' military wing). I wonder and hope if Israel still exists," the voice is heard saying on the recording.
    "If it does, I wonder if its leaders are thinking of the Israeli soldiers in captivity, worrying about them and working for their release. I am dying every day. I feel the hope to be with my family beating in my heart. Please help me," the voice says.
    Hamas did not disclose which Israeli prisoner was heard in the recording. Defense officials said they believed the recording to be fake and part of a stunt to emotionally manipulate the Israeli public.
    A senior Israeli source ruled out the option it was Mengistu's voice in the recording owing to the young man's complex mental state.
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