Israel said today two of its citizens are being held in the Gaza Strip—and it believes Hamas has had its hands on one of them for almost a year, the AP reports. An Israeli defense unit says that "credible intelligence" shows Avraham Mangisto, said by Israeli media to be a 28-year-old Ethiopian-Israeli, is being held "against his will" by Hamas and that "Israel has appealed [to] international and regional interlocutors to demand his immediate release and verify his well-being," reports Fox News. Mangisto reportedly entered Gaza of his own accord from an Israeli beach on Sept. 7 last year, just a couple of weeks after a ceasefire was declared to end last summer's Gaza war. Israeli defense officials say an Arab-Israeli citizen is also being held, though details are scarce, the New York Times notes. The cases are drawing comparison to that of Gilad Shalit, an Israeli soldier who was held for five years by Hamas until his release in 2011 in exchange for more than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners.
The news of the reported captives was made public only after Israeli military officials lifted a gag order this morning, though it wasn't clear why the order was suddenly lifted, NBC News reports. Mangisto's brother Ilan spoke at a press conference this morning about what he's calling "a difficult humanitarian matter," revealing that his brother isn't doing well healthwise, reports the New York Times. "I'm asking the international community to engage and use their power to free my brother," he said, per NBC. "I ask (Hamas) to take into consideration his health and to release him immediately." Meanwhile, their father told Israel's Channel 2 that Avraham often went missing for days on end and had been depressed after another brother killed himself. A Hamas spokesman says, per Fox News, "We don't have any information about it. Even if is true, we don't have instructions to talk about it." (Israeli officials said they foiled a major Hamas terror plot in November.)