Yaron Blum
Yaron BlumYonatan Sindel/Flash90

Yaron Blum, Israel’s government coordinator for prisoners and missing persons, said Sunday morning that Avera Mengistu and Hisham al-Sayed, the two Israeli civilians who have been held by the Hamas terrorist organization in Gaza since 2014 and 2014, had previously entered the Gaza Strip, but Hamas turned them back to Israel, adding that they were both alive.

Blum said that while Mengistu was returned once, al-Sayed had been returned twice after entering Gaza. "The third time Hamas chose, cynically, to leave them, contrary to all international laws. Unfortunately, they hold sick civilians and we are making every effort to release them," he told Reshet Bet.

Commenting on the efforts to bring the prisoners home, Blum said: “I think we are making strides in this direction. Hamas is not yet ripe [for a deal] and the gaps are very large between their many demands and what the State of Israel will be willing to give, but we are definitely in the process of progressing this."

The Mengistu family responded, "These things are not correct, and it is particularly serious that the coordinator of these matters is distributing these baseless statements as far as Avera Mengitsu is concerned. One would expect that the one whose job it is would show sensitivity and accuracy in the details."

Following the family's outraged response, the prime minister's office issued an apology in Blum's name. "Coordinator for Prisoners and Missing Persons Yaron Blum seeks to convey his deepest apologies over the fact that, during the interview this morning, he mistakenly attributed additional crossings to Avera Mengistu. Blum meant Hisham al-Sayed." Blum: "I apologize from the bottom of my heart."