Avera Mengistu, the 28-year-old Israeli of Ethiopian descent who has been missing since he crossed the border into Gaza last September, is an Israel Defense Forces (IDF) soldier who was taken captive during Operation Protective Edge and not a mentally unstable civilian as Israel claims, Hamas official Mousa Mohammed Abu Marzook told Al Jazeera.
“The claims that he is crazy are lies by Israel,” Marzook said.
“In his interrogation he gave us details about negotiations for a truce that were happening in Cairo at the time. What crazy person wearing a uniform manages—in wartime—to travel more than 40 kilometers (25 miles) from Beersheba to northern Gaza without being seen?” added Marzook.
After a gag order was recently lifted, the public learned that Mengistu and another Israeli citizen had been in Hamas captivity in Gaza for nearly a year. An Israeli defense official said Mengistu was believed to be mentally ill, but his family denied that report, which said that Mengistu had suffered from severe depression since his brother’s suicide three years earlier.
The identity of the second captive, a Bedouin from southern Israel, has still not been released.
A high-ranking IDF official said last week that Hamas representatives claimed the terrorist organization had released Mengistu when they realized he was not an Israeli soldier, which would contradict what Marzook told Al Jazeera.