WASHINGTON: 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.
National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said Thursday the administration will be talking with Israeli authorities about the reported detentions of the brothers, as well as the Israeli military’s arrest of an American woman in the occupied West Bank earlier in the week. “We want to know more about the reasons here,” Kirby told reporters at the White House.
“Obviously, this is the kind of thing we take very seriously,” he said, and the US will be “trying to get information, more context here about what happened.”
Borak Alagha, 18, and Hashem Alagha, 20, two brothers born in the Chicago area, are among fewer than 50 US citizens known to still be trying to leave sealed-off Gaza, nearly four months into the Israeli-Hamas war.
Other US green-card holders and close relatives of the citizens and permanent residents also are still struggling and unable to leave, despite US requests they be allowed to exit, 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-Mawasi, near 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 have not returned, Elagha said.
Men of a neighboring household were also taken away. So were other adult male relatives of another Alagha family household, for a total of about 20 family members detained, the US cousin said.
A family social media account from Gaza also described the detentions.
An advocate for American families who are still trying to get loved ones out of Gaza faulted US officials Thursday for not having moved more urgently to help get the Alagha brothers and other Palestinian Americans, US residents and close relatives out of harm’s way in Gaza.
Detention or death under an Israeli airstrike “were two of the biggest fears this family has had all along. And now the worst has happened,” said Maria Kari, an immigration attorney who has been advocating for the family. “It could have been avoided if the US had more timely advocated for this family.’’
US officials in December said they had helped 1,300 Americans, green-card holders and their eligible close family members to leave Gaza since Oct. 7.
State Department officials in January declined to say how many people for whom the U.S. has requested permission to leave remain in Gaza, citing the “fluidity” of the situation.
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 was visiting the region to try to mediate with ally Israel and regional Arab leaders.