Two American citizens were detained by the Israel Defense Forces during a raid of a home in Gaza early Thursday morning local time, according to a family member in the United States.
Hashem Alagha, 20, and Borak Alagha, 18, were among a group of roughly 20 men detained by IDF soldiers during the incident, according to Yasmeen Elagha, who identified herself as their cousin. She said both men are American citizens, born in the suburbs of Chicago and raised there in their early childhood. She also said their father, who is a Canadian citizen, was detained.
Elagha tells CNN that she spoke over the phone with Hashem’s mother – her aunt – who was present during the incident and claimed the IDF forces broke through a door while the group was sleeping, tied up the women and children inside the home and took all the men into custody.
They do not know where the men have been taken at this point.
Elagha says the home belongs to her uncle and her family has no ties to Hamas.
CNN has reached out to the IDF for comment.
The US is aware of reports that the Israeli military has detained two American citizens in Gaza, according to a State Department spokesperson.
“We are aware of these reports and we are currently seeking additional information, but I don’t have any additional information to share and would not be able to at this point, given privacy considerations,” said State Department Deputy Spokesperson Vedant Patel at a press briefing.
The news comes at a sensitive moment in US-Israeli relations. On Wednesday, US efforts to pressure the Israeli government toward a “humanitarian pause” in Gaza received a blow when Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu dismissed a counterproposal from Hamas as “delusional.”
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who visited Israel on Wednesday said negotiations toward an agreement would continue.
Israel’s offensive in Gaza launched after the Hamas attack four months ago has taken an immense humanitarian toll on the strip, with tens of thousands dead and the population of Gaza on the brink of famine.
Patel said they believe “the vast majority” of US citizens seeking to leave Gaza have reached out to the State Department.
“Our expectation continues to be that we expect the number of American citizens, LPR’s [legal permanent residents] and eligible family members who are able to depart, we expect that number to continue to grow as long as the crossing remains open,” said Patel, referring to the Rafah border crossing with Egypt.
Patel said that since October 7, the US has “assisted nearly 1,600 individuals, including US citizens, lawful permanent residents and other eligible family members with entry into Egypt from Gaza… from the Rafah border crossing.”
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