Gaza’s Hamas rulers have released a video of a captive Israeli citizen held incommunicado since 2015, showing the man lying in a hospital bed wearing an oxygen mask.
It was the first image of Hisham al-Sayed to be released since he wandered across the frontier from southern Israel into Gaza. Its release came a day after Hamas said the condition of one of the Israelis it was holding captive had deteriorated.
In the video, Sayed, 34, is seen lying in bed with a mask over his mouth and nose and what appears to be an oxygen canister next to him. He appears tired and dazed. He does not speak and there is no audio.
Other parts of the video show an intravenous drip next to the bed as well as an image of Sayed’s Israeli identification card. Sayed is a member of Israel’s Bedouin Arab minority.
The video is titled “Footage of the soldier in the army of occupation, Hisham Sayed, detained by the Qassam Brigades”. It is not dated, but a TV screen in the video shows images of the Qatar Economic Forum, which was held in Doha last week.
Sayed is one of two Israeli civilians believed to be held by Hamas. Rights groups say that both suffer from mental illness. The Islamic militant group has given no details on the conditions or whereabouts of its prisoners and it has never allowed the Red Cross to visit them.
Israel’s prime minister, Naftali Bennett, condemned the release of the video and said Hamas was holding two mentally ill people against “all international laws.”
“Issuing a video of a sick person is a despicable and desperate act,” his office said in a statement.
It described Sayid as a civilian with mental illness who had crossed the border into Gaza a number of times previously. “The actions of Hamas are proof that it is a cynical terror and criminal organisation,” the statement said, adding that the video delayed any chance of a deal.
Hamas has demanded the release of hundreds of Palestinian prisoners, including people convicted in deadly attacks, in exchange for the captive Israelis.
Israel and Hamas are bitter enemies. They have fought four wars and dozens of smaller skirmishes since Hamas took control of Gaza 15 years ago.
Israel and Egypt have maintained a tight blockade over the territory since. Israel the closure is needed to prevent Hamas from building up its military capabilities, but critics say the policy amounts to collective punishment of Gaza’s 2 million Palestinian residents.
Israel says there can be no major moves toward lifting the blockade until the soldiers’ remains and captive civilians are released.
Bennett’s office said Israel would continue working through Egyptian mediation to bring about the release of the captives.