TIME Israel-Gaza

Two Israeli Citizens Believed to be Held in Gaza

Avraham Mangisto Israel citizen Gaza
Amir Cohen—Reuters Ilan Mangisto, the brother of Avraham Mangisto, speaks to the media as their parents stand with him, outside their home in the southern city of Ashkelon, Israel, on July 9, 2015.

Details on the missing individuals were revealed after Israel's military lifted a gag order

(JERUSALEM) — Two Israeli citizens are being held in the Gaza Strip, at least one of them by the Palestinian militant Hamas group, Israeli authorities said Thursday. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he held Hamas responsible for the men’s well-being.

The announcement, made after months of secrecy, came after the Israeli military lifted a gag order Thursday on the two Israelis.

It raised memories of the case of Gilad Schalit, an Israeli soldier captured by Hamas in a cross-border raid and released five years later in a prisoner swap, as well as of the case of deadly kidnappings of three Israeli teens by Hamas militants in the West Bank last summer.

One of the two men, Avraham Mengistu, is an Israeli of Ethiopian descent in his late 20s who disappeared after he “independently” crossed the border fence into the Gaza Strip on Sept. 7 last year, nearly two weeks after the end of the Israel-Gaza war, said the Israeli defense body responsible for Palestinian civilian affairs. It gave no further details.

The second Israeli citizen being held in Gaza is a Bedouin Arab man from Israel’s Negev desert, according to the defense body, known as the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, or COGAT. There were no details as to how long he has been held in Gaza or how he got there or which group had him in custody. Bedouin make up a small group within Israel’s Arab minority, numbering about 180,000.

Thursday’s news did not trigger an uproar as the two previous two cases did — perhaps in part because the two missing Israelis were not violently captured but also a reflection of a tense but quiet working relationship that has emerged between Israel and Hamas since a devastating war a year ago.

Senior Israeli government officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly about the issue, said Israel had hoped keeping the affair quiet could lead to the men’s release.

COGAT said that “according to credible intelligence,” Mengistu is being held “against his will” by Hamas. It said “Israel has appealed (to) international and regional interlocutors to demand his immediate release and verify his well-being.”

“This is a humanitarian matter and I expect those holding him to treat him properly and to return him in full health,” Israeli President Reuven Rivlin in a statement.

A spokesman for Hamas, Salah Bardawil, declined comment.

“We don’t have any information about it. Even if is true, we don’t have instructions to talk about it,” he said.

Netanyahu said Israel was working to free the men and that he had appointed a representative to deal with the matter. Defense officials identified the representative as Lior Lotan, a former Colonel and negotiator with an elite military unit. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to reveal the man’s identity to the media.

“Yesterday I spoke with the parents and siblings of Avraham Mengistu and I told them that … we have spared no effort to return him to Israel,” Netanyahu said, adding that he expected the international community to “issue a clear call” for the men’s release.

It was not clear why Israel decided to come forward with the news on Thursday. But Khaled Mashaal, the head of Hamas’ political bureau, may have forced its hand by telling the London-based Al-Araby Al-Jadeed newspaper late Tuesday that Israel had asked Hamas through a European mediator to release “two soldiers and two bodies.”

Israel says the bodies of Israeli soldiers Oron Shaul and Hadar Goldin have been in Hamas hands since the soldiers were killed in combat in Gaza last summer.

Mashaal said Hamas told the mediator that it would not hold negotiations with the “prisoners” Hamas has, nor would it release information about them or their condition, until Israel releases Palestinian prisoners rearrested after being freed in a 2011 high-profile prisoner swap, in which Israel released more than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners in exchange for captive Israeli soldier Schalit.

Israeli media said Israel had turned to international channels to appeal for Mengistu’s release on humanitarian grounds because he was a civilian, not a soldier.

Israeli Channel 2 TV said Mengistu arrived at an Israeli beach on the Gaza border the evening of Sept. 7, left his bag behind and crossed into Gaza through a breach in the border fence apparently left from the movement of Israeli tanks during the Israel-Gaza war.

The 50-day war last summer between Israel and Hamas, a militant Islamic group sworn to Israel’s destruction, killed 2,200 Palestinians while Israel lost 73 people.

Though bitter enemies, both sides have largely honored a cease-fire that ended last year’s war — their third since Hamas seized control of Gaza in 2007. While they have no formal relations, both sides tried to avoid another flare-up in fighting and also in recognition of a rising threat posed by extremist Salafist groups that draw inspiration from the Islamic State group.

“This is a difficult humanitarian matter, because my brother is not in the best of health,” said Ilan Mengistu to reporters. He called on Hamas to free him immediately, and asked Israel and the international community to exert pressure to lead to his release.

He did not elaborate on Mengistu’s health, but Israeli Channel 2 TV said Mengistu was depressed following the death of another brother.

Israeli Channel 10 broadcast an interview with a man it identified as Mengistu’s father. “They didn’t do anything,” Haili Mengistu said. “Where is my son?”

Itamar Shimoni, the mayor of Ashkelon where Avraham Mengistu is from, praised the family of five brothers and said local officials were supporting them.

“The family has been hurting for several months now. They are showing restraint. This is not a family that will go out demonstrating,” he said. “It’s not easy, it’s not easy.”

TIME Middle East

You Really Can’t Tell Your Terrorists Without a Scorecard

Shootouts between four Mideast terrorist groups reveal what the label obscures

Hopscotching the headlines of the day, we see that Hamas and Hizballah were both active on Tuesday—though not against Israel, the country each was created to oppose. Both groups, rightly listed as terrorist organizations, were going hammer and tongs against other terrorists: Hamas took out a Gaza Strip fundamentalist associated with ISIS, the extremist group in control of large swathes of Iraq and Syria, while Hizballah battled al-Qaeda’s powerful Nusra Front near Lebanon’s border with Syria. All four sides claimed victory.

What to make of all this? Maybe only that though they all wear black, and often appear delighted with the role of Bad Guy, the groups gathered under the great enveloping cloak marked “terrorist” are far from the same. And the differences are not only sectarian. Three of Monday’s four combatants—Hamas, ISIS and al-Qaeda—are Sunni Muslim groups. The exception is Hizballah, which Iran created to solidify Lebanon’s Shi’ite population and bring the fight to Israel after Israeli forces invaded Lebanon in 1982.

None of the groups is any one thing, but some can at least be safely approached. ISIS and quite possibly al-Nusra would arrest me, and in time perhaps saw off my head. Hizballah serves reporters Doner kebabs—said to be delicious—and Hamas issues journalist visas in Gaza. Both are essentially political organizations, which also operate what they call “military wings.” Those wings have carried out terrorist attacks, but they are calculated toward achieving a political end. Usually that end involves Israel—Hamas’s charter calls for its elimination, yet the stated goals of last summer’s Gaza war was an extra three miles of fishing rights in the Mediterranean—but the clash on Monday was about eliminating a rival: ISIS.

Hamas, which promotes both Islamist and nationalist goals—it wants a Palestinian state—and appears to crave U.S. recognition, simply is not radical enough for the extremists of ISIS, some of whom live under its rule in Gaza, the coastal enclave between Israel and Egypt. There, Hamas police stations have been bombed, and its military wing rocketed, by groups that consider the Muslim Brotherhood affiliate unworthy. In response, Hamas has set up checkpoints, trying to cull the herd. Its officials said the man killed on Tuesday, Yussef al-Hatarman, was shot after threatening to blow himself up along with the Hamas police officers who had come to arrest him. The Hamas Interior Ministry released photos of suicide belts and other arms apparently confiscated in the raid—embracing a great law enforcement tradition.

It wasn’t the first time Hamas has defended its monopoly on force in Gaza against more radical groups. In 2009, its police attacked a compound held by a fundamentalist who had just declared Gaza an “Islamic emirate.” The death toll then was 28, but officials expressed regret at the loss of life. Hamas had sent a local theology professor in to try to coax the rebels to see the error of their ways, something the professor later told me he’d been able to manage in the past. But then, as even terrorists are finding out, six years ago the radical fringe in the Middle East was still out on the fringe, and not nearly so radical.

TIME On Our Radar

Winner of the Anja Niedringhaus Courage in Photojournalism Award Revealed

American photographer Heidi Levine wins the inaugural award

“I think it’s the highest honor I’ve ever experienced in my career,” says American photographer Heidi Levine, the first recipient of the Anja Niedringhaus Courage in Photojournalism Award. “Yet, at the same time, I really feel heartbroken because of the circumstances in which this award was created.”

Niedringhaus, a Pulitzer Prize-winning Associated Press (AP) photographer died a year ago when she and her AP colleague Kathy Gannon were shot by a uniformed Afghan police officer in Khost Province, Afghanistan. The International Women’s Media Foundation launched the award to honor Niedringhaus’ courage and dedication.

Levine was selected for her work covering last year’s conflict in Gaza, the most recent set of images she’s produced about the enclave since moving to the Middle East in 1983.“I’ve [always felt] this calling to bear witness,” she tells TIME. “I know that most people don’t understand why we do what we do; why we run forward when everyone else is fleeing; why we’re compelled to do this. And this award will help me continue to believe in what I’m doing and not give up.”

For the judges, who included TIME’s director of photography Kira Pollack, AP’s vice president Santiago Lyon and Michele McNally of the New York Times, Levine’s work showed that her “courage and commitment to the story” were unwavering. “She documents tragic events under dire circumstances while displaying a depth of compassion for the people she encounters,” the jury said in a statement.

Levin will receive her award, as well as a $20,000 cash prize, at a ceremony in Berlin on June 25.

The jury also gave honorable mentions to photographers Anastasia Vlasova and Rebecca Blackwell for their work in Ukraine and Central African Republic, respectively.


Watch a Video of British Artist Banksy in Gaza

Several of Banksy's latest graffiti pieces are highlighted

British graffiti artist Banksy, known for his subversive street art, released a two-minute video from war-torn Gaza on his website Wednesday.

“Make this the year you discover a new destination,” it wryly says, in the style of a tourism video. But instead of sandy beaches, it offers viewers a glimpse of what a Gazan sees “well away from the tourist track”: tunnels, rubble and children gazing at some of the 18,000 homes destroyed last July in Israel’s Operation Protective Edge.

The video also spotlights several of Banksy’s latest graffiti pieces, including images of children swinging from a surveillance tower, a parent grieving over a child in a bombed-out setting, and a kitten donning a pink bow.

“A local man came up and said ‘Please — what does this mean?’ I explained I wanted to highlight the destruction in Gaza by posting photos on my website — but on the internet people only look at pictures of kittens,” Banksy writes.

“The cat found something to play with,” a Palestinian man says during the video. “What about our children?”

TIME Photojournalism Links

Photojournalism Daily: Jan. 12, 2015

A compilation of the most interesting photojournalism found on the web, curated by Mikko Takkunen

Today’s daily Photojournalism Links collection highlights Andrea Bruce‘s work from Cuba, made on assignment for the New York Times. They accompany a text by a correspondent who made a 17-hour, nearly 600-mile road trip across the island in a battered 1956 Ford. The photographs, shot in the south of the country, capture a struggling country, where many continue to rely on money sent by relatives abroad, horses are used for transportation and billboards still trumpet revolutionary slogans. But, there are also hints of change to the political system, with budding entrepreneurship. The words and pictures are a fascinating sliver into contemporary, slowly changing Cuba.

Andrea Bruce: Revealing a Slowly Changing Cuba (The New York Times)

Jerome Sessini: Beneath the Front Lines of the War in Eastern Ukraine (TIME LightBox) The photographs capture the region’s struggling coal industry, which has been hit hard by the current conflict.

Fabrice Fouillet: Colosses (Wired Raw File) Some of the world’s most imposing statues, seen from unusual angles.

Four deaths on a Gaza Beach: The images unseen (Al Jazeera America) Photo editor Mark Rykoff writes about graphic Gaza images, that no one wanted to publish.

God’s flock (British Journal of Photography) Another review of Jordi Ruiz Cirera’s photobook, Los Menonos, which depicts the Mennonite communities of eastern Bolivia.

TIME World

Exclusive: 29 Instagrams That Defined the World in 2014

See some of the most powerful images shared on Instagram this year

As Instagram hit a milestone this month, with its number of monthly active users ballooning to 300 million, TIME, in association with the photo-sharing app, takes a look back at the key moments of 2014.

The selection of images, shared by some of Instagram’s most popular and respected photographers, offers an intimate view of some of the defining events of the year: From the toll of war in Gaza to the unrest in Ferguson, Mo., and from the border between Mexico and the U.S. all the way to Mongolia, Afghanistan and Sierra Leone.

“Real moments are captured and posted on Instagram every single day, from Nana Kofi Acquah’s image of a Tanzanian doctor timing a baby’s labored breathing using his mobile phone, to Brendan Hoffman’s haunting first reactions upon arriving at the crash site of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 in eastern Ukraine,” says Pamela Chen, Instagram’s Editorial Director. “These are just a sampling of the powerful images shared by people around the world in 2014.”

Read next: The Top 10 Photos of 2014

TIME the backstory

Photojournalism Daily: Nov. 28, 2014

Photojournalism Daily is a compilation of the most interesting photojournalism found on the web, curated by Mikko Takkunen

Today’s daily Photojournalism Links collection highlights Jošt Franko‘s work on farmers in Gaza. Franko has been photographing a group of them in the Palestinian enclave since 2013. He returned this fall to gauge the toll of this past summer’s conflict. What he found is damaged homes, bulldozed farmlands and ruined olive trees. Franko’s pictures offer a compelling look at a community desperate to rebuild its livelihood in the wake of war.

Jošt Franko: Farmers in Gaza (The Washington Post In Sight)

Tanya Habjouqa: Occupied Pleasures (Slate Behold) Habjouqa’s World Press Photo Award winning series shows a side of Palestinian life that doesn’t usually make it into the news.

Rodrigo Abd: Peru Attacks Illegal Mining (The Associated Press Images) These photographs document the government’s battle against illegal mining in the country’s southeastern jungles, where 50,000 hectares of rainforest have been wiped-out in the last couple of years.

Bieke Depoorter: I Am About to Call It a Day (The New Yorker Photo Booth) Work from Depoorter’s road trip around the United States in 2010, has been collected into a new book called, I Am About to Call It a Day.

The Islamic State and Photography (Aperture Foundation Blog) Sam Powers considers the strategies and visual imagery of IS from a photographic standpoint.

Photojournalism Links is a compilation of the most interesting photojournalism found on the web, curated by Mikko Takkunen, Associate Photo Editor at TIME. Follow him on Twitter @photojournalism.

TIME the backstory

Photojournalism Daily: Nov. 25, 2014

Photojournalism Daily is a compilation of the most interesting photojournalism found on the web, curated by Mikko Takkunen

Today’s daily Photojournalism Links collection highlights Danny Wilcox Frazier’s work from America’s heartland. The photographer spoke to National Geographic’s PROOF blog about documenting rural reality in the Midwest from his home state of Iowa and the Badlands of South Dakota to urban abandonment in Detroit. These gritty but beautiful black-and-white pictures are evidence that Wilcox Frazier is a true chronicler of unseen or forgotten parts of America.

Danny Wilcox Frazier’s Ode to the American Heartland (National Geographic PROOF)

Peter van Agtmael: Gaza (TIME LightBox) These compelling photographs show the Palestinian enclave in the aftermath of the past summer’s conflict.

Choosing to Look at ‘War Porn’ (New York Times Lens) Christoph Bangert’s recently published book questions censorship in conflict photography by showing images that were originally deemed too graphic to be published. Not for the faint-hearted.

World Press Photo Report on the Integrity of the Image (World Press Photo) Dr. David Campbell conducted research on the contemporary industry standards worldwide for manipulating news and documentary photographs.

An-My Lê (Aperture Foundation blog) Video of the photographer’s recent talk about her new book, Events Ashore, exploring the American military.

Photojournalism Links is a compilation of the most interesting photojournalism found on the web, curated by Mikko Takkunen, Associate Photo Editor at TIME. Follow him on Twitter @photojournalism.

TIME In Progress

Inside Gaza with Photographer Peter van Agtmael

What photographer Peter van Agtmael encountered in Gaza changed the way he worked.

Peter van Agtmael spent the last Gaza war taking pictures on the Israeli side. But when the fighting ended he made the surreal journey across the Erez Crossing from Israel into the Strip, home to some 1.8 million Palestinians. What he encountered changed the way he worked.

“When you’re confronted with that degree of destruction, you can’t shy away from it,” van Agtmael says. “I can’t go looking for my quirky little images in flattened neighborhoods.”

Van Agtmael’s particular gift, on rich display in his book Disco Night Sept 11, assembled from work in the U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as the home front, was in finding the telling image outside the main frame of daily photojournalism. And if that image was often off-balance or a bit odd, it was also immediately recognizable as where life is actually lived, even during wartime.

But a woman camping in the ruins of her home – one of 600 buildings crushed by Israeli bombs in a single neighborhood – did not lend itself to eliding understatement. That will have to come in time. Van Agtmael sees his next book in the region, and aims to spend a substantial amount of time there in the next few years. It has what he looks for in a subject. “I guess the kind of thing I keep coming back with is something kind of complex and contradictory,” he says. “Everything you learn from one picture kind of gets denied by the next picture, and you circle back around with the third.

“The end result is a cohesive mass but a perplexing one as well. In the end, photography isn’t very good at telling narratives, it’s a series of fragments. But to make a polemic, that’s not my interest.”

Van Agtmael, a Washington DC native who studied history at Yale, knows the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians has not lacked documentation. But “something clicked into place” during a 2013 assignment for the New York Times Magazine on the West Bank. He spent weeks with Palestinian activists in the village of Nabi Saleh, but also popped across the highway to visit Israelis in Halamish, the Jewish settlement the Palestinians gathered to each Friday. “I’m fascinated by the way those two worlds are incredibly intertwined, and how it easy it is to flip-flop between them, especially if you’re a journalist,” van Agtmael says. “That kind of dissonance attracts me as a photographer.”

Peter van Agtmael is a conflict photographer and member of Magnum.

Karl Vick is a TIME journalist based in New York. He spent four years as TIME’s Jerusalem Bureau Chief.

TIME the backstory

Photojournalism Daily: Nov. 21, 2014

Photojournalism Daily is a compilation of the most interesting photojournalism found on the web, curated by Mikko Takkunen

Today’s daily Photojournalism Links collection highlights Mauricio Lima’s photographs on fishing for the pirarucu, one of the world’s largest freshwater fish, in Brazil’s Amazonas region. Nearly two decades of conservation efforts, which, today, allow only locals to harpoon and bludgeon the pirarucu, appear to be working. Lima’s striking pictures illustrate the struggle that goes into killing these beasts, whose fragile survival impacts these fishermen’s only livelihood.

Mauricio Lima: Fishing for a Goliath of the River in the Amazon (The New York Times)

Adam Dean: Burma (Time.com) These photographs capture a still impoverished Burma as it stumbles through democratic transition, and ethnic strife.

Michele Sibiloni: Uganda’s thriving drug scene (Al Jazeera) These scenes document the surge in drug use in the country’s capital, Kampala, while parliamentary representatives are debating the introduction of a tough narcotics-bill. Critics, however, argue the new legislation could unfairly punish the poor.

Jim Mangan: Blast (The New Yorker’s Photo Booth) Surprising, yet beautiful aerial pictures that capture a rally-car driver Ken Block racing through the Utah desert.

Gianluca Panella: Gaza Blackout’s Backstage (Leica Camera) The Italian photographer interviewed about his World Press Photo award winning series.

Photojournalism Links is a compilation of the most interesting photojournalism found on the web, curated by Mikko Takkunen, Associate Photo Editor at TIME. Follow him on Twitter @photojournalism.

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