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Israel-Hamas prisoner exchange deal hits snag

Public acknowledgment that an Israeli man is allegedly being held in Gaza has complicated negotiations between Israel and Hamas for his return, along with the remains of two IDF soldiers, in exchange for Hamas prisoners in Israeli jails.
Barbed wire is seen on Zikim beach, Israel near the border with northern Gaza (seen in background) July 9, 2015.  Two Israeli citizens are being held by Hamas in the Gaza Strip, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Thursday, a situation that could lead to demands for a prisoner exchange between Israel and the Islamist militant group. Hamas, which took control of the Palestinian coastal enclave in 2007 and fought three wars with Israel since then, declined to confirm or deny it had the captives. REUTERS
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It’s no coincidence that the disappearance in Gaza of a young Israeli man named Avraham Mengistu has only now been made public. Mengistu, a 29-year-old in all likelihood suffering from mental illness, climbed the border fence near the Zikim kibbutz Sept. 7, 2014, and has since been considered missing. On July 9, a gag order was lifted on the disappearance of another Israeli, a Bedouin man who crossed the border into Gaza as well. Israeli authorities are treating the two cases quite differently. Mengistu was captured by Hamas shortly after entering Gaza, whereas the other Israeli had crossed the border several times in the past and is thought to be living in Gaza, with a family and with Hamas' consent, and is not therefore considered any sort of potential bargaining chip.

Israel kept a lid on Mengistu’s crossing into Gaza, assuming that as long as Hamas did not publicly declare that it held him, an exchange could be quietly negotiated for his return along with the remains of Lt. Hadar Goldin and Sgt. Oron Shaul, two Israel Defense Forces (IDF) soldiers killed during last summer’s Operation Protective Edge.

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