While Israel only today (Thursday) released news of two Israeli citizens being held by Hamas in Gaza, reports had been circulating in the Arabic media for some time already.
And on Thursday, at a public rally in Gaza, Hamas dropped a fairly big hint that it was holding the two captive, in addition to the body of IDF soldier Sergeant Oron Shaul.
The rally, which took place in Gaza City and was attended by hundreds of Hamas supporters, was a show of force by the Islamist terrorist group one year since Operation Protective Edge. It featured masked terrorists from Hamas's "military wing," the Ezzedine al Qassam Brigades, brandishing assault and heavy weaponry, and displaying two rockets which Hamas claimed were "new models".
Al Qassam spokesman Abu Obeida boasted of the new additions to the terror group's rocket arsenal, while delivering sermons on Hamas "martyrs" killed in the conflict last summer – in particular three Al Qassam Brigade commanders killed in an Israeli air strike towards the end of the campaign.
Watch: Hamas rally gives clue over fate of 2 kidnapped Israelis?
But another conspicuous feature at the rally was a large, black model of a clenched fist, holding three oversized IDF dog tags. One of the tags had the ID number of Oron Shaul, who was killed in combat in Gaza during last year's war and whose remains Hamas has been holding as a bargaining chip ever since. But the other two dog tags were emblazoned with large question marks, likely a reference to the two Israeli civilians – Avraham Mengistu and another, as yet unnamed, Arab-Israeli citizen – it has been holding alive for around ten months.
Hamas has at times claimed Shaul is alive, though has failed to show any proof of life and is widely believed to be exaggerating its hand in that case.
However the group has repeatedly hinted that it possesses other bargaining chips – presumably the two citizens whose kidnap was revealed today.
Although no explicit reference to them was made at the Gaza City rally, it appears likely the two blank dog tags were a reference to them.