Families of Israelis missing in Gaza demand their return

Relatives of Hisham Al-Sayed (C-R) and Avera Mengistu (C-L), two Israelis held by Hamas in Gaza since 2014, pose for a picture next to a painted poster depicting them after a press conference organised by the captives' families calling for their release, in Jerusalem on September 6, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 06 September 2018

Families of Israelis missing in Gaza demand their return

  • Mengistu was filmed by an Israeli security camera climbing the frontier fence with the Gaza Strip in September 2014

JERUSALEM: The families of two Israelis believed to be held captive in Gaza by its Hamas rulers demanded Thursday that the Islamist movement return their loved ones.
Ethiopian-born Avera Mengistu was filmed by an Israeli security camera climbing the frontier fence with the Gaza Strip in September 2014.
Human Rights Watch said it was told by an Israeli official that Hisham Al-Sayed, a Muslim Bedouin, was picked up by monitoring equipment as he crossed the border into Gaza in April 2015.
Both are said to be mentally unstable.
“Hisham’s problem is he is sick psychologically,” his father Shaaban Al-Sayed told a press conference on Thursday.
“We want to send a message to the Palestinian people in Gaza to speak to Hamas, put pressure on Hamas,” to free him, he said in Arabic.
Ilan Mengistu appealed to Hamas’ Gaza leader Yahya Sinwar to “act like a human being, to consider my brother Avera’s mental condition, to consider the family’s suffering, and to release Avera and Hisham today.”
He said that his brother was being held as a bargaining chip to try and win the release of Hamas prisoners held by Israel.
“A man with special needs is being held hostage,” Mengistu said in Hebrew. “How cruel.”
Israel does not allow its citizens to enter Gaza, partly over fears that they may be used as leverage to demand concessions.
Two Israeli soldiers, Oron Shaul and Hadar Goldin, are believed to have been killed in the 2014 war in Gaza and their remains held by Hamas.
The movement has suggested it is willing to trade the bodies in a deal similar to the 2011 swap that saw Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit freed in exchange for more than 1,000 Palestinians in Israeli prisons.
Around 6,500 Palestinians are currently in Israeli jails, according to the Palestinian Prisoners’ Club.

Jumblatt expresses concern over torture of Syrian refugees

Syrian children are pictured at a refugee camp in the village of Mhammara in the northern Lebanese Akkar region on March 9, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 55 min 42 sec ago

Jumblatt expresses concern over torture of Syrian refugees

  • UN official stresses ‘urgent need to ensure’ their ‘safe, voluntary and dignified return’
  • Some 215,000 Syrian students are currently enrolled in Lebanon's schools 

BEIRUT: Lebanese Progressive Socialist Party leader Walid Jumblatt has expressed concern about reports that Syrian refugees returning to their country from Lebanon face torture and murder.

This coincides with a debate in Lebanon about whether Syrian refugees should return without waiting for a political solution to the conflict in their country. 

UN Special Coordinator Jan Kubis stressed after meeting with Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri on Monday the “urgent need to ensure the safe, voluntary and dignified return of Syrian refugees home, according to international humanitarian norms.” 

Kubis added: “The UN and the humanitarian community will continue to facilitate these returns as much as possible. Another very important message was also to support the host communities here in Lebanon.”

Mireille Girard, representative of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), on Monday said: “The reconstruction process in Syria may not be enough to attract refugees to return. We are working to identify the reasons that will help them to return.”

She added: “The arrival of aid to the refugees is an element of trust that helps them to return. Their dignity and peaceful living must be ensured.”

Social Affairs Minister Richard Kouyoumdjian said the Lebanese General Security “issued lists containing the names of refugees wishing to return to their homes, but the Syrian regime accepted only about 20 percent of them.”

He added: “The solution is to call on the international community to put pressure on Russia, so that Moscow can exert pressure on (Syrian President) Bashar Assad’s regime to show goodwill and invite Syrian refugees to return to their land without conditions, procedures, obstacles and laws that steal property and land from them.”

Lebanese Education Minister Akram Chehayeb said: “The problem is not reconstruction and infrastructure, nor the economic and social situation. The main obstacle is the climate of fear and injustice in Syria.”

He added: “There are 215,000 Syrian students enrolled in public education in Lebanon, 60,000 in private education, and there are informal education programs for those who have not yet attended school to accommodate all children under the age of 18.” 

Chehayeb said: “As long as the displacement crisis continues, and as long as the (Assad) regime’s decision to prevent the (refugees’) return stands … work must continue to absorb the children of displaced Syrians who are outside education to protect Lebanon today and Syria in the future.”