Avera Mengistu and Hisham al-Sayed have been held as hostages in Gaza since 2014 and 2015, respectively.
Unlike the roughly 240 people kidnapped in the Hamas October 7 terrorist attack, the campaign for the release of Mengistu and al-Sayed has received little publicity.
The two cases, and the similarities between them, tell a bigger story about how Israel views its hostages.
‘It’s very hard’ say relatives
Hisham al-Sayed is an Israeli citizen, a Bedouin from the southern town of Hura. In 2015, he crossed the Gaza border and has been held there by Hamas ever since.
It wasn’t the first time al-Sayed crossed the border into the Gaza Strip. On previous occasions, he had been returned to Israel. This time, though, Hamas chose a different course of action.
The Islamist militant group, which is designated as a terrorist organization by the European Union, Germany, the United States and other nations, says al-Sayed is an Israeli combatant, but the rights organisation Human Rights Watch (HRW) says that is not the case, noting that he is a civilian.
“Hisham crossed the border to Gaza due to his illness,” his father Sha’aban tells DW.
His family did not know his whereabouts for three months after he disappeared. Then Hamas released a statement announcing that he was being held in the Gaza Strip.
“As a family, this hits you where it hurts the most,” Sha’aban al-Sayed says.