Middle East

Two US brothers detained in Gaza now being held in Israeli prison, US official says

By Alex Marquardt, Yahya Abou-Ghazala and Jennifer Hansler, CNN

CNN  — 

Two American brothers who were detained in Gaza earlier this month by Israeli forces are being held in Ashkelon prison, a US official tells CNN. Ashkelon is in central Israel just north of the Gaza Strip.

The US has renewed its request for consular access to Borak Alagha, 18, and Hashem Alagha, 20, who were born and raised in Chicago in their early childhood, the official said, adding that their location has been shared with their family.

The brothers were “arrested for collaboration with Hamas,” Israel’s Consul General to the Midwest, Yinam Cohen, told CNN on Thursday.

On Friday an Israeli official told CNN that the brothers are suspected of assisting senior Hamas officials during the war and were detained for questioning.

When asked for comment, the IDF told CNN the brothers are not in their custody, referring questions to the Israeli Security Agency (ISA).

A lawyer for the family rejected the Israeli accusations, calling them “baseless accusations and smears.”

“These unverified claims, which have zero evidence, are nothing but a flimsy attempt by Israel to avoid accountability for unjustly and arbitrarily detaining two US citizens,” said Maria Kari, an immigration attorney who is representing the family, in a statement to CNN.

“For months, Hashem and Borak’s family members have been pleading with elected officials in the US to protect the boys — both American citizens born and raised in Chicago — from Israel’s attacks on Gaza,” Kari said.

As CNN previously reported, the brothers were among a group of roughly 20 men detained by IDF soldiers early on February 8, according to the brothers’ cousin Yasmeen Elagha.

She said she spoke by phone with Hashem’s mother – her aunt – who was present during the incident and claimed IDF broke through the door while the group was sleeping, tied up the women and children inside the home, and took all the men into custody. Elagha said the home belongs to her uncle and her family has no ties to Hamas. IDF did not respond to CNN’s request for comment at the time on the matter.

This story has been updated with additional details.

CNN’s Richard Allen Greene contributed reporting.

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