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Israeli Source to TML: Hamas Video of Captive is Proof of Life Amid Swap Talks

An undated video clip released Monday by Hamas showing an Israeli citizen believed to be held captive by the Islamist group in Gaza serves as confirmation of his well being, an Israeli source told The Media Line.

Israel believes Avera (Avraham) Mengistu crossed into the Strip of his own accord in 2014 and is being held in the coastal enclave along with another Israeli national Hisham al-Sayed and the two bodies of Oron Shaul and Hadar Goldin, two IDF soldiers the country declared fallen in its 2014 conflict with Hamas. Al-Sayed is also believed to have entered the Strip under his own volition in 2015.

The Media Line exclusively revealed last month that Israel and Hamas were indeed engaged in prisoner exchange talks [1] to secure the release of the two captives and the two bodies. The talks are being held between Israel and Hamas and intermediaries from Egypt and Qatar, The Media Line understands.

The source also told TML on Monday that the timing of the video’s publication was determined solely by Hamas and that Israel had no influence over the matter. The release of the video is believed to be part of a larger agreement between Israel and Hamas, which includes the release of Mengistu and al-Sayed and the remains of two soldiers.

In the clip, Mengistu is shown with a shaved head and wearing a purple shirt. “I am the prisoner Avera Mengistu,” he says. “How long will I and my friends be here in captivity? After long years of pain, where are the country and the people of Israel regarding our fate?”

A notice in Hebrew and Arabic posted by the Hamas military wing Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades before the video begins taunts outgoing IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi for his “failures” and for “lies” to the Israeli people and the government. Kochavi on Monday handed over to his successor Maj. Gen. Herzl Halevi, who is also taunted by Hamas for what the group calls future failures.

A similar video was released as Israel and Hamas were engaged in talks to free captive IDF soldier Gilad Shalit in 2011.

The bodies of fallen soldiers Hadar Goldin, left, and Oron Shaul, 2nd left, are being held in Gaza, along with captives Avera Mengistu, 2nd right, and Hisham al-Sayed, right

Significantly, Israel agreed last month to release Palestinian prisoners with Jordanian citizenship, which is also part of the deal. Those prisoners are likely to include Abdullah Barghouti, who has been repeatedly on top of the list of prisoners drawn up by Hamas to be freed by Israel in any prisoner exchange. Israel had refused to release Barghouti, a member of the Hamas military wing, in its 2011 prisoner exchange with the group.

Barghouti is serving 67 life sentences after his conviction in Israel for his role as a bomb maker in a series of deadly suicide bombings during the Second Intifada.