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Top U.S. Envoy Slams Hamas For Holding Mentally Ill Ethiopian Jew Hostage in Gaza

Avera Mengistu has been held by the terrorist group for over three years

Yair Rosenberg
November 16, 2017

On Wednesday, Jason Greenblatt, the U.S. Special Representative for International Negotiations, hosted the family of Avera Mengistu. You may not have heard of Mengistu, but you should. On September 7, 2014, Mengistu, an Ethiopian Jewish Israeli from Ashkelon, crossed into Gaza and disappeared. His family subsequently revealed that he had been struggling with mental illness, and had stopped taking his medication shortly before entering Gaza.

For a time, Mengistu’s predicament was kept under gag order, in the hopes that not publicizing and politicizing his predicament would make it easier for Hamas—the U.S. and E.U.-designated terrorist group that controls Gaza—to release him. But over three years later, Hamas has still refused to return Mengistu to Israel, and mediation through the Red Cross has repeatedly failed.

In the face of this cruel abuse of an unwell man’s human rights, Greenblatt invited Mengistu’s family to the White House to raise awareness for his cause and ratchet up the international pressure on Hamas. Though doubtless a powerful gesture, it seems unlikely to produce results, given that Hamas has previously held onto Israel hostages for years while using their likenesses in sadistic propaganda videos.

Today I welcomed the family of Avera Mengistu to the White House. Avera has been held by Hamas in Gaza for over 1,000 days since he disappeared in September, 2014. It is outrageous that Hamas will not let him return home or communicate with his family.

— Jason D. Greenblatt (@jdgreenblatt45) November 15, 2017

Yair Rosenberg is a senior writer at Tablet. Subscribe to his newsletter, listen to his music, and follow him on Twitter and Facebook.