(JNS) A Hamas spokesman announced on Monday that the health of one of the Israeli civilians held captive by the group in the Gaza Strip has deteriorated, according to Israel’s Channel 12.

Hamas is holding Israeli civilians Avra Mengistu and Hisham a-Said captive, both of whom crossed into the Hamas-ruled enclave of Gaza of their own accord.

Hamas is also holding the remains of Israeli soldiers Oron Shaul and Hadar Goldin, who were killed in combat during “Operation Protective Edge” in 2004.

In response to Hamas’s claims, the Office of Prime Minister Naftali Bennett released a statement saying, “Hamas has proven yet again that it is a cynical and criminal terrorist organization, which holds mentally ill civilians in violation of all international conventions and laws, as well as the bodies of fallen IDF soldiers. Hamas is responsible for the state of the captured civilians.”

Bennett added that “the State of Israel will continue its efforts, mediated by Egypt, to bring home the captives and the missing, with responsibility and determination.”

A defense source told Channel 12 on Tuesday that the Israeli defense establishment is not aware of any changes in the health conditions of Mengistu or a-Said, adding that Hamas’s statement appears to be an attempt to exert pressure in the context of negotiations for a prisoner swap deal.

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