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Why third Israeli crossing into Gaza may weaken Hamas' hand

With a second Israeli Bedouin crossing the border into Gaza, Hamas now holds three Israeli citizens, all of them reportedly suffering from mental illness.
A member of the Hamas security forces stands guard as an Israeli watchtower (rear) is seen near the fence between Israel and the southern Gaza Strip November 24, 2012. Hamas Islamists enforced a fragile two-day-old truce on Friday by evacuating Palestinians from a "no-go" border zone after Israel shot dead a Gaza resident there in the first fatality since the ceasefire. REUTERS/ Ibraheem Abu Mustafa (GAZA - Tags: POLITICS CIVIL UNREST) - RTR3ATBQ

About two years ago, two Israeli civilians — Avraham Mengistu, a member of the Ethiopian community, and Hisham al-Sayed, a resident of the Bedouin town of Hura — illegally (and separately) crossed the border into Gaza. On July 12, another Bedouin youth, Jumaa Ibrahim Abu-Ghanima, did the same, making a total of three Israelis being held by Hamas' military wing, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades. The group also has the bodies of two Israeli soldiers, Oron Shaul and Hadar Goldin, who were killed in Operation Protective Edge in summer 2014.

Hamas’ military wing generally portrays Mengistu and Sayed as soldiers — with all the accompanying implications — despite their family members' assertions that their sons entered Gaza as a result of being mentally ill. At rallies organized by the Qassam Brigades last July on the first anniversary of Operation Protective Edge, photographs of Mengistu and Sayed were displayed together with those of Shaul and Goldin. In the meantime, Hamas continues to hide two facts from Gazans: that Mengistu and Sayed are mentally ill and that they crossed the border of their own volition.

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