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Family says two American brothers, 18 and 20, detained in Israeli raid in Gaza

The family of two American brothers trapped in Gaza says Israeli forces have detained the two U.S. citizens in a raid on their home

Ellen Knickmeyer
Thursday 08 February 2024 16:04 GMT
US Gaza Americans Detained
US Gaza Americans Detained (Copyright 2023 The Associated Press All rights reserved)

Israeli forces detained two young adult American brothers and their Canadian father in in Gaza in an overnight raid on their home in the besieged Palestinian territory, relatives of the men said.

A U.S. Embassy official in Jerusalem reached by telephone from Washington said American officials were aware of the situation and were following up with Israeli authorities.

The embassy official gave no details and ended the call without giving her name. The Israeli foreign ministry and military had no immediate comment.

Borak Alagha, 18, and Hashem Alagha, 20, two brothers born in the Chicago area, are among fewer than 50 U.S. citizens known to still be trying to leave sealed-off Gaza, as the Israel-Hamas war entered its fifth month. Numerous other U.S. green-card holders and close relatives of the citizens and permanent residents also are still struggling and unable to leave, despite U.S. requests, according to their American families and advocates.

Cousin Yasmeen Elagha, a law student at Northwestern University, said Israeli forces entered the family home in the communityof al-Muwasi, near the southern city of Khan Younis, around 5 a.m. Gaza time Thursday.

The soldiers tied up and blindfolded the women and children in the family, and placed them outside the home, the cousin said.

The two American brothers, their Canadian citizen father, a mentally disabled uncle and two other adult male relatives were taken away by the Israelis, and remain missing, Elagha said.

Men of a neighboring household were also taken away. So were other adult male relatives of another Alagha household, for a total of about 20 detained, the U.S. cousin said.

A family social media account from Gaza also described the detentions.

State Department spokespeople in Washington had no immediate comment on the reported detention of the American brothers.

The brothers would be among three American citizens taken into custody by Israeli forces this week, during the same time Secretary of State Antony Blinken visited the region to try to mediate a cease-fire and hostage release deal with ally Israel and regional Arab leaders.

U.S. officials say they have helped 1,300 Americans, green-card holders and their eligible close family members to leave Gaza since Oct. 7, when surprise Hamas attacks killed about 1,200 people, mostly civilians, in Israel. Hamas also took about 250 hostages, with several dozen still being held in Gaza.

More than 27,000 Palestinians, the majority of them civilians, have been killed in the ongoing Israeli military offensive in Gaza, according to Palestinian health officials in the Hamas-ruled territory.

State Department officials have not publicly given a number for how many people for whom the U.S. has requested permission to leave remain in Gaza, citing the “fluidity” of the situation.

The only authorized exit from Gaza is through the Rafah crossing between Gaza and Egypt. The exit list is controlled by Israel and Egypt. U.S. authorities say they are working with the two U.S. allies to get more of the names of Americans, U.S. residents and their close kin who are seeking to leave placed on the list. The Alagha brothers' family says they are among those who have been unable to get their names on the exit lists.

Israeli security forces in the course of the war have rounded up large numbers of Palestinian military-age men in Gaza, later releasing some. Israel says the mass detentions are a necessary part of fighting Hamas. Palestinians say Israel is unjustly including large numbers of civilian adult males in the sweeps.

In the occupied West Bank, meanwhile, a 46-year-old Palestinian American woman, Samaher Esmail, was taken from her home on Monday and detained. The Israeli military said she had been arrested for “incitement on social media” and held for questioning.

The U.S. Embassy in Israel said Thursday it had no updates on her case.

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