Hamas has been holding an Ethiopian-Israeli captive since October after he sneaked into the Gaza Strip for unknown reasons, it was cleared for publication Thursday.
The man was named as Avraham Mengistu, 28, of Kiryat Gat. The gag order on his case was lifted Thursday morning following a lawsuit from Haaretz and Yedioth Ahronoth.
On Wednesday, Hamas leader Khaled Meshal alluding to Mengistu when speaking about Israelis held by his organization, including the bodies of two soldiers killed in last summer’s war.
According to Israeli sources cited in Hebrew media, Mengistu was last seen jumping over the border fence next to Zikim beach in southern Israel.
Israeli troops in the area who spotted him believed him to be a Palestinian returning the territory and, seeing he was unarmed, did not shoot at him.
After entering the Strip, Mengistu walked south where he met with Gazan fisherman.
It was not clear why he entered the Strip. His brother Yalo told Haaretz he left a bag on the beach containing a Bible.
Some reports after his capture indicated he may have suffered from a mental illness.
Negotiations have been ongoing in secret to secure his release. It was unclear why the gag order was initially put in place, or why it was lifted Thursday.
Despite its proximity to Gaza, Zikim is a public beach open to all swimmers. It was the scene of an attempted Hamas infiltration during last summer’s conflict, in which four frogmen attacked a military base from the beach.
Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal on Wednesday alluded that his organization was holding at least one live Israeli captive, in addition to the bodies of two IDF soldiers killed during last summer’s 50-day war.
Israeli officials have confirmed that the group holds the remains of deceased IDF soldiers Hadar Goldin and Oron Shaul and have been negotiating for their release, along with Mengistu.
Speaking with the Arabic language al-Araby al-Jadeed newspaper, Mashaal claimed Israel had requested of European officials to mediate in negotiations with Hamas over the release of the captured individuals.
In October last year, Mohammed Nazzal, a senior figure in Hamas’s political wing, stressed that his group would demand that Israel “pay a price” for every bit of information regarding the whereabouts of Hadar Goldin and Oron Shaul’s remains. Nazzal did not indicate what the group would demand in exchange for such information.
Goldin and Shaul were killed in separate incidents during fighting in Gaza during the summer’s 50-day military campaign. They were both declared dead based on evidence the army acquired, but their bodies were never recovered by Israel.
Adiv Sterman contributed to this report