According to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Hamas is believed to be responsible for holding two Israeli citizens in custody in Gaza. While Hamas has not issued comments about either of the citizens, an Ethiopian Israeli and an Israeli Arab, the organization did at one point hold an Israeli soldier captive in Gaza for five years before deciding to trade him for hundreds of prisoners in 2011.
Hamas, an Islamist militant group and terrorist organization, has controlled Gaza since 2006, and bolstered its power in 2007 after getting rid of its main political rivals, Fatah. Since then, Gaza
has been akin to a war zone, and Israelis have been broadly encouraged to stay well away from the region. Israeli defense officials say they have appealed to a number of regional and international bodies to clarify the situation of the hostages and are seeking their immediate release. A statement from the defense ministry stated there is plenty of “credible evidence” to indicate the civilians are being held against their will by Hamas, and that the nation will continue to do whatever it can to ensure their release. Netanyahu himself also called on the international community to put pressure on Hamas to release the citizens. It is unclear why the Ethiopian Israeli, Avraham Mangisto, went into Gaza in the first place, but the Associated Press has reported unnamed officials who said there was reason to believe he was mentally unstable. He somehow managed to breach what is a very heavily guarded security fence running the border between Gaza and Israel. Meanwhile, the Israeli Arab being held captive hails from the southern Negev Desert region. His name has not been released to journalists, but the defense ministry did confirm he had crossed the border into Gaza at several other points in the past. We offer our prayers to the two citizens being held by Hamas and hope the Lord will work to guide them back home. We encourage you all to pray for them as well, and for the safety of all Israelis who live and work near Gaza.