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Israel-Palestine: Hamas releases alleged recording of Israeli held in Gaza

The al-Qassam Brigade also released a clip of formerly imprisoned soldier Gilad Shalit, who was released in a prisoner swap in 2011
Members of the Al-Qassam Brigade march through Gaza City on 22 May 2021 to mark the death of senior Hamas commander Bassem Issa, who was killed by an Israeli air strike (AFP)

Hamas released an alleged audio recording of an Israeli held by the Palestinian movement in the besieged Gaza Strip, as well as footage of formerly detained Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. 

Both clips - released by the armed wing of Hamas, the al-Qassam Brigades - were aired on Sunday as Hamas and Israel have been negotiating a prisoner swap deal since April. 

In the audio recording aired on Al-Jazeera Arabic's Tip of the Iceberg, an alleged Israeli soldier is heard questioning whether "Israel still exists" and if leaders of the country "are concerned for the safety of imprisoned soldiers and calling for their release". 

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The bodies of Israeli soldiers Oron Shaul and Hadar Goldin have been reportedly held by Hamas in Gaza since the 2014 war. Two Israeli civilians, Avera Mengistu and Hisham al-Sayed, wandered into Gaza in 2014 and 2015, and are believed to be held captive by Hamas, the de facto ruling party in the blockaded territory.

While Hamas identified the person in the audio recording as a "captured soldier", no active duty Israeli soldiers are publicly known to be held alive by Hamas.
Commentators in Israel claimed the voice in the recording was Mengistu. Mengistu's mother, however, dismissed the claims and told Israel's Kan public broadcaster that it was not her son. 

"I can say unequivocally that it’s not my son; that’s not his voice,” Agarnesh Mengistu told Kan. 

“I’m waiting for my son, and I hope to see him soon, as I have been promised.”

Israel's government coordinator for prisoners and missing persons, Yaron Blum, also dismissed the claims and described the audio recording as an attempt at "cheap manipulation" by Hamas. 

Al Jazeera Arabic also aired a video recording of Shalit, the Israeli soldier who was held by Hamas between 2006 and 2011. 

The clip appeared to show Shalit shaving, working out and tying his shoelaces in an outdoor court while the militant group held him in Gaza. 

Hamas eventually freed Shalit in exchange for 1,027 Palestinian Hamas members imprisoned by Israel. Hundreds of Palestinians released as part of the so-called Shalit deal were later re-arrested by Israel and made to serve the rest of their sentences.

Last month, Israel and Hamas engaged in an 11-day armed conflict that led to 248 Palestinians killed by Israeli air strikes in the besieged Gaza Strip, and 12 people killed in Israel by Hamas rockets.

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