Family of captive Israeli arrives in DC to raise awareness

WASHINGTON – The family of Avera Mengistu, an Israeli who has been detained in Gaza since September 2014, arrived in Washington this week to highlight his plight. Avera’s brother, Ilan and his mother Agurnesh met with the Trump administration’s Middle East envoy Jason Greenblatt at the White House on Wednesday. “It is outrageous that Hamas will not let him return home or communicate with his family,” Greenblatt said on Twitter.

The family also met with senior Congressional officials from both parties including Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee Ed Royce (R-CA), Ranking Member of the Middle East and North Africa Subcommittee Ted Deutch (D-FL), and Representative Brad Sherman (D-CA).

While the Red Cross and Amnesty International condemned the detainment of Mengistu, the international humanitarian organizations have not been permitted to visit him in Gaza nor have they been provided any proof of life.

Avera Mengistu suffers from a psychological disorder and did not serve in the Israel Defense Force (IDF). After his brother Michael died from an illness, Avera’s emotional state significantly deteriorated and he frequently disappeared for lengthy periods of time. Before his illness, Ilan fondly remembers his brother as “full of happiness” and especially joyful on Shabbat and Jewish holidays.

For the first eight months after his detainment, the Israeli military issued an order preventing any media outlet from reporting on the situation. However, when the family did not receive any proof of life from Avera, they decided to publicize his detainment in an effort to try and bring him home from Hamas custody.

The Mengistu family’s next stop is New York where they hope to meet with senior United Nations officials to continue to bring attention in international diplomatic circles to his captivity.

Ilan urged US government officials to include his brother’s condition in any diplomatic arrangement relating to the Gaza Strip.

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