Avera Mengistu, an Israeli citizen with a history of mental illness, crossed the border into Gaza in 2014 and has been held by Hamas ever since. On Wednesday, his family met with US officials at the White House in order to raise international awareness and press politicians to act for his release.

Jason Greenblatt with the Mengistu family

Jason Greenblatt with the Mengistu family Photo Credit: Jason Greenblatt Twitter account/Channel 2 News

The family of Avera Mengistu, an Israeli who has been held in Gaza since 2014, met with Jason Greenblatt, Special Representative for International Negotiations in US President Donald Trump’s administration. The meeting took place on Wednesday evening at the White House.

“Today I welcomed the family of Avera Mengistu to the White House,” Greenblatt tweeted on Wednesday. “Avera has been held by Hamas in Gaza for over 1,000 days since he disappeared in September, 2014. It is outrageous that Hamas will not let him return home or communicate with his family.”

The Mengistu family arrived in the US a week ago to urge Washington officials to assist in the effort to return Avera home. The family members will meet additional officials in the US capital and then are expected to arrive in New York for a series of meetings with UN representatives. They are also expected to attend the Jewish Federations of North America’s annual assembly in an attempt to involve the US Jewish community in their struggle.

Avera Mengistu

Avera Mengistu Photo Credit: Channel 2 News

2017 marked an increased effort by the family to pressure Israeli and foreign politicians to work towards the release of Avera. Two months ago, they held a rally in Tel Aviv commemorating three years since he crossed the border into Gaza.

The family claimed that the last time a government official contacted them was over a year ago. However, the meetings only concerned instructions for what they were permitted to say. According to them, they now intend to go public and continue to hold similar rallies.