US consular officials meet Palestinian-American brothers detained by Israel in Gaza

Two men from the Chicago area were taken by Israeli soldiers during a raid

The wreckage from Israeli strikes in Beit Lahia, in northern Gaza. AFP
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US consular officials in Jerusalem have met two Palestinian-American brothers detained by Israeli soldiers in Gaza, the State Department confirmed on Monday.

Hashem Alagha 20, and Borak Alagha, 18, were taken by Israeli soldiers from the home in which they were sheltering with their parents, uncle and younger siblings, near Khan Younis in the Gaza Strip this month.

Family members said Israeli soldiers stormed the house in the early hours of February 8, taking the brothers and their father, who holds Canadian citizenship, with them.

No explanation was given at the time as to why they were being detained.

Israel has since accused the brothers of collaborating with Hamas. The family has strongly denied the allegations.

“We categorically deny the baseless and dangerous charges that Israel has levelled against Borak and Hashem Alagha, who were abducted by Israeli soldiers along with their father and mentally disabled uncle,” their cousin Yasmeen Alagha told The National.

The brothers were born and raised near Chicago, Illinois, but moved with their family to Gaza several years ago.

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They had already been displaced from their home once since October 7.

“This was our first time to speak directly to the two brothers and so I don't have any assessment to offer about their case,” State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said.

“Other than that is true for all Americans in Israel or anywhere around the world, their safety and security is our first priority.”

The family has expressed frustration with how US President Joe Biden's administration has handled the war in Gaza as well as the treatment of the brothers.

“We should all be gravely concerned and outraged that at this very moment two young Americans are being subjected to arbitrary detention and mistreatment at the hands of a foreign country,” Ms Alagha said.

Palestinians detained by Israel receive treatment in Rafah – video

Palestinians detained by Israel receive treatment in Rafah

Palestinians detained by Israel receive treatment in Rafah

“The Biden administration must act now to ensure that these young Americans suffer no further harm, are afforded their lawful right to due process and are released from their wrongful detention immediately.”

Members of Ms Alagha's family sued the Biden administration in December, claiming it has not done as much to evacuate their American relatives stuck in Gaza as it did for Israeli dual citizens.

The family had been trying to get the brothers and the rest of the family in Gaza on a list of Americans cleared to leave the besieged enclave.

Americans listed by the US as wanting to leave Gaza at the Egyptian-controlled Rafah crossing must be approved by both Israel and Egypt.

The State Department says it has helped about 1,300 Palestinian Americans to leave Gaza, in part by co-ordinating their exit with Israeli and Egyptian authorities.

Updated: February 26, 2024, 9:23 PM