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Under threat, Hamas releases video purporting to show captive Israeli


JERUSALEM — The Palestinian militant group Hamas released a video Monday of an Israeli it said was being held captive in the Gaza Strip, rare footage it described as a warning to the new head of the Israeli army.

Hamas’ armed wing, the Qassam Brigades, shared the video, which allegedly showed Israeli prisoner Avera Mengistu calling on the Israeli army to secure his freedom. It is still unclear when the video was taken.

Mengistu, an Israeli of Ethiopian descent, independently crossed the Israeli fence surrounding the blockaded Gaza Strip in 2014, following a devastating 50-day war between Israel and Hamas. His family said he had psychiatric problems.

The issue of Israelis in captivity is an emotional one in Israel, with the Israeli government having paid a high price for the return of its citizens or the remains of its soldiers in politically contentious prisoner swaps. Hamas is also holding captive another Israeli citizen, Hisham al-Sayed, as well as the remains of Oron Shaul and Hadar Goldin, two soldiers killed in the 2014 war.

Hamas did not specify where it was holding the prisoners or the remains of the soldiers, and it did not allow humanitarian visits by international officials to see them.

The militant group has, on rare occasions, released photos and images of the captives. Last year, Hamas released a short video showing a sickly al-Sayed lying on a bed and struggling to breathe in an oxygen mask.

“How long am I going to stay here?” asks the man believed to be Mengistu in the video, which aired Monday on the Hamas satellite channel, Al Aqsa. “My companions and I are in captivity. … Where are the State and the people of Israel?

The Israeli military had no immediate comment.

Hamas released the video the day Lieutenant General Herzi Halevi was sworn in as the new commander of the Israeli army. In a statement accompanying the footage, the militant group warned Halevi that he would “bear the burden” of his predecessor’s failure to release Israeli captives held in the Palestinian enclave.

When Halevi officially took office Monday at a ceremony in Jerusalem, he vowed he would protect the army from political interference in the chain of command.

His predecessor, Lt. Gen. Aviv Kohavi, and other leaders of Israel’s security establishment rejected plans by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government to divide military authority over the occupied West Bank. Powerful far-right ministers in the new government now control a department within the Ministry of Defense overseeing the bureaucratic aspects of the occupation as well as a paramilitary police force.

Halevi said in his inaugural address that the military would be “devoid of any considerations other than security”. He is the first West Bank settler to serve as a military leader.

Israel captured the West Bank, along with East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip, in the 1967 Middle East War – territories the Palestinians seek for a future independent state. Some 500,000 Israelis live in settlements in the West Bank that the Palestinians and most of the international community regard as illegal and obstacles to peace.

washingtonpost Gt

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