An Israeli security official has shed more light on the Hamas kidnapping of Avraham Mengistu, simultaneously asserting that Hamas is lying about the 28-year-old Israel's fate.
A Hamas official has reportedly said that Mengistu, who crossed into Gaza in September, is not being held by Hamas for collateral terror releases and was released into Gaza civilian life months ago.
"We know that Mengistu was arrested, taken in for questioning by Hamas officials, and since then intelligence on him has disappeared, the Israeli official said, noting that this information was only acquired by the defense establishment after great effort.
According to him, officials working on behalf of Hamas sent a message to Israel that Mengistu had been arrested, questioned and released. Hamas even suggested Mengistu, an Israeli citizen of Ethiopian origin, sought to return to Ethiopia.
"Israel knows this is a false and premeditated report," the official argued. "There are two possible reasons for this: ether Hamas wants to keep Mengistu as an asset for future negotiations, or something bad happened to him, and someone in Hamas prefers to conceal that."
Still, the official asserted, "we are working under the assumption Mengistu is alive."
The official also referred to claims that arose Thursday that the handling of the kidnapping was less intense due to the fact that Mengistu is Ethiopian.
"During the period since we've learned of the case, representatives of the defense establishment and the Defense Minister met frequently and were updated constantly. The media gag order was fully coordinated with them. In addition, for the first time the support model constructed for families of kidnapped soldiers was performed for a civilian. Even the Prime Minister and President contacted the family."
The official noted that with the exception of the Israeli government coordinator, there were no international channels for negotiation of Mengistu's release, because of a desire to keep his identity secret.
Most of the calls for Mengistu's release were issued by organizations of foreign governments.
Asked if Hamas had set any conditions for Mengistu's release, the official said "all moves we've made through mediators received the same answer and have been exhausted. At this stage of the process, there's no dialogue, but we will continue our activities to try and ascertain Mengistu's condition. As Hamas denies it is holding him, no conditions have been set."
"If, as a result of Thursday's publication, Hamas will inform Israel it's holding Mengistu, and a negotiation process will begin, that will be a tremendous advance," the official added.
Regarding the second Israeli reported to be held in captivity by Hamas in Gaza, the security official denied to give further details.