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US aware of reports that Israel detained two Americans in Gaza, State Dept says

By Doina Chiacu and Simon Lewis

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States is aware of reports that two Americans in Gaza were detained by Israeli forces in a raid early on Thursday and is seeking more information, the State Department said.

The department did not identify the two U.S. citizens, citing privacy concerns.

But the family of U.S.-Palestinian dual nationals Hashem Alagha, 20, and Borak Alagha, 18, said the two brothers were detained in a raid on a home west of the city of Khan Younis on Thursday morning.

Four other relatives were detained, including the brothers' Canadian father and an uncle who is mentally disabled, according to the brothers' cousin, Yasmeen Elagha, who lives near Chicago.

In a statement, a spokesperson for the State Department said it was "aware of reports of (the) detention of two U.S. citizens in Gaza and (was) seeking additional information."

The Israeli military had no immediate comment.

Israel has arrested or detained hundreds of Palestinians in Gaza since Oct. 7, when it launched its military offensive in the territory following a deadly attack in Israel by Hamas, according to the Palestinian Prisoners' Club advocacy group.

The two brothers, born in the Chicago area, have not yet been cleared to leave Gaza, Elagha said. Americans listed by the U.S. as wanting to leave Gaza at the Egyptian-controlled Rafah crossing must be approved by both Israel and Egypt.

The Alagha family sued the Biden administration in December, claiming the government has not done as much to evacuate their U.S. relatives stuck in Gaza as it did for Israeli dual nationals after the deadly Oct. 7 attack on Israel by the Palestinian Hamas militant group that rules Gaza.

The State Department says it has helped around 1,300 U.S. Palestinians leave Gaza and escape Israel's retaliatory bombardment - in part by coordinating their exit to neighboring Egypt with Israeli and Egyptian authorities.

A number of American families are suing the government saying the United States has not taken steps to organize dedicated flights or otherwise help secure the exit of an estimated 900 other U.S. citizens, residents and family members who remain trapped in Gaza.

(Reporting by Simon Lewis and Doina Chiacu; Editing by Rami Ayyub)