General

Israel appeals to Pope Francis for help to free Gaza captives

Israel seeks the help of Pope Francis to free four Israelis held captive in the blockaded Gaza Strip, according to Israeli media.

Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen sent a letter to the pontiff to seek his intervention to free the four Israeli captives in the Palestinian territory, Israeli Channel 14 reported.

Cohen also sent letters to UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, President of the Geneva-based International Committee of the Red Cross, Mirjana Spoljaric Egger, World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom and other UN officials.

The Israeli diplomat said in his letters that the release of the four Israelis is a "moral obligation" for the Israeli government and the world.

On Monday, Palestinian resistance group Hamas released a video showing Israeli captive Avera Mengistu while appealing for his release. The Israeli government confirmed Mengistu's clip as authentic.

Last month, Pope Francis met with the families of the four Israeli captives and promised to help for their return.

Hamas, which rules Gaza, holds four Israelis captive, including two soldiers captured during the Israeli war on the territory in the summer of 2014. The other two are civilians who have entered Gaza under unclear circumstances.

The Palestinian group demands the release of Palestinians in Israeli prisons in exchange for Israelis in captivity.

At least 4,600 Palestinians are held by Israel, according to Palestinian estimates.

* Writing by Ahmed Asmar

Source: Anadolu Agency