UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Monday called on Palestinian Arabs in Gaza with knowledge of two missing Israeli civilians to provide information about their possible whereabouts and conditions, reports The Associated Press (AP).
UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said Monday the secretary-general is also calling for prompt action to facilitate the safe return to their families of Avraham (Avera) Mengistu and a Bedouin Arab from southern Israel who has not been identified.
Dujarric said Ban "underscores the responsibility of all parties to protect and respect the rights of civilians," and will continue to closely monitor developments, according to AP.
He said the United Nations will continue to closely monitor developments.
The 26-year-old Mengistu, who has a history of mental illness and whose family recently made an emotional appeal for his release, has been in Hamas captivity for 10 months.
The second Israeli is also being held in Gaza, although his identity, current status and the precise details of his capture are still under a gag order.
Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon has said unequivocally that Israel will not be freeing convicted terrorists in return for the two Israelis.
"Two mentally ill Israelis – God forbid – entered Gaza. We took every humanitarian action in order to free them, while maintaining a low profile – but freeing terrorists is not on the agenda," he said.
Yaalon's comments came after other MKs and even senior ministers voiced their opposition to any further prisoner exchanges.
Israel has in the past agreed to increasingly lopsided deals, in which hundreds of convicted terrorists – many of them multiple-murderers – have been released from prison in exchange for a single Israel soldier or civilian, or even the bodies of soldiers killed in battle and seized as bargaining chips by terrorist groups.
However, Israelis have become increasingly disillusioned with the policy – which reached its height in the 2011 Shalit Deal, under which Israel released more than 1,000 terrorists in exchange for IDF soldier Gilad Shalit – particularly since most terrorists released under such deals quickly resume terrorist activities.
Terror victims’ rights groups and bereaved families have consistently decried the policy as a perversion of justice and an insult to the memory of the victims of terrorism.