WASHINGTON (AP) — Israeli forces detained two young adult American brothers in Gaza and their Canadian father 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 Americans 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, nearly four months into the Israeli-Hamas war. 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 town of al-Masawi, near Khan Younis, around 5 a.m. Gaza time Thursday.
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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 visits the region to try to mediate 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 in Israel. More than 27,000 people, the majority of them civilians, have died 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.
A 46-year-old Palestinian American woman, Samaher Esmail, was taken from her home in the occupied West Bank 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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