Israeli security officials said Thursday night that Israel will not release Hamas prisoners in return for two Israelis who are held in Gaza.
Israel has in the past engaged in prisoner swaps with Hamas, most notably in 2011, when Gilad Shalit, a soldier abducted by militants in a cross-border raid in 2006, was released in exchange for more than 1,000 Palestinians held in Israeli jails.
Dozens of those ex-prisoners have been rounded up by Israel since, outraging Hamas, which signaled that until they were freed again it would refuse to respond to Thursday's charge that it was holding two Israeli captives.
"There will be no talk about a prisoner swap before Israel releases all Palestinians who were re-arrested in the West Bank after they had been freed in the 2011 Shalit deal," Mahmoud al-Zahar, a top Hamas official, told Reuters.
Israel is separately seeking the return of the remains of two soldiers killed during last year's war with Hamas.
Abera Mengistu, 29 years old from Ashkelon, has gone missing in the early hours of September 8, 2014, when he crossed the border into Gaza out of his own volition.
A second citizen, a Bedouin resident of the south, has also crossed the border into the Strip, also of his own accord, in April 2015. The young Bedouin is said to be mentally ill, and has tried to cross into Gaza in the past.
Mangisto was seen walking on the beach, heading south. He reached the Zikim beach area, and continued walking south until he crossed an electric fence that divides Israel from Gaza, which starts on the beach and continues into the water.
An IDF lookout identified suspicious movement and pointed the observation camera at Mengistu's direction. At this point, Mengistu touched the electric fence, which set off an alarm with troops from the IDF Gaza Division's northern brigade.
The army lookouts sent a patrol unit to the area, but Mengistu managed to jump over the fence and cross into Gaza before the troops got there. The troops fired in the air as a warning sign, and called on Mengistu to return to Israel, but he ignored them.
He then moved away from the fence and started moving south. When he got to the Gazan shore, he joined a local group of fishermen and has not been seen since.
The troops also called in the bomb squad to check Mengistu's bag, which he left on the beach, out of concern it was booby-trapped. The bag was later returned to Mengistu's family.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's representative, Lior Lotan, met with the family and told them of a video that documents Mengistu crossing the border.
"You see in the video that there's a wall with a fence over, and Abera get there and tries to pass on the left and right. At this point, a military force was called to the scene. In the end, he finds a spot, and climbs over the barbed wire, it takes him five minutes. Meanwhile troops arrive and call at him and even fire in the air but they don't have orders to kill people who try to leave Israel to Gaza. They also didn't think it's a security incident because his bag was left on our side. They brought a bomb squad, which shot the bag with a robot and only after they saw there are no explosives, saw a Bible, saw Abera's name, saw he was a Jew, they realized there's a Jew here who crossed the border."
IDF doesn't stop people going into GazaMengistu crossed the border only two weeks after the end of Operation Protective Edge. During that time, there was still a lot of commotion around the Gaza Strip, with a lot of troops still in the area. Mengistu's was able to cross the border because of this commotion, which also included the movement of a lot of civilians.
Along the Gaza border fence, the IDF's radars, observation cameras and troops are all pointed south or west - towards the Strip, and not towards Israel. That is why any civilian who wants to cross into Gaza can do so in only a minute or two of climbing the fence.
The IDF also does not impose any limits to Israelis in that area, which allows Israelis to bath at the Zikim beach, hike through Be'eri Forest and farm nearby lands - all of this almost to the border fence. The only spot to which troops are called is to a road adjacent to the border fence. The IDF has stopped dozens of unarmed Palestinians crossing from Gaza into Israel in that area.
An IDF investigation of the incident found the troops acted as expected of them.
Over the past ten months, four petitions were filed at the Ashkelon Magistrate's Court in an attempt to lift the gag order over Mengistu's disappearance. The state objected every time, and won the court's support.
A senior security source said that the gag order was filed by security officials. "One of the considerations was to allow a faster action with better chances to bring Mengistu back.... the order's different extensions were done in coordination and at the request of the family, with the understanding that this gives to the process a better chance."
Reuters contributed to this report.