Two Israeli citizens are being held by Hamas in the Gaza Strip, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Thursday, a situation that could lead to demands for a prisoner exchange between Israel and the Islamist militant group.
Hamas, which took control of the Palestinian coastal enclave in 2007 and fought three wars with Israel since then, declined to confirm or deny it had the captives.
"We are working for the return of the two Israelis who crossed the border into Gaza," Netanyahu said in a statement, confirming information that has been restricted by the Israeli military censor since last September.
"We hold Hamas responsible for their safety."
Israel\’s Defense Ministry identified one of those held as Abraham Mentis, 26, an Israeli of Ethiopian origin. The other is an Israeli Arab who was not named.
The ministry said it believed Mentis, a resident of Ashkelon, a city close to the Gaza border, had crossed into the coastal territory on foot on Sept. 7, 2014. It gave no details on how or when the Israeli Arab had entered the territory.