Families of Palestinian-American detainees denounce the silence of the American government News of the Israeli war on Gaza

Washington DC – “Receipt confirmed.” This is the only message Yasmine Elagha received from the US government after Israeli forces arrested two of her cousins ​​- both Palestinian-Americans – as they took shelter near Khan Yunis in southern Gaza.

It is now calling on the administration of US President Joe Biden to do more to ensure their safety and secure their release. Elaga said her cousins, 18-year-old Burak Alaga and 20-year-old Hashim Alaga, are being held without charge.

“We applied to the US government,” explained Ilaga, a law student at Northwestern University in Chicago. “The administration has completely failed in doing its duty.”

They are one of several families demanding protection for Palestinian Americans detained by Israel, as the war in Gaza continues. They gathered in Washington, D.C., for a news conference on Monday to press for action.

Elaga explained from the podium that she learned of the kidnapping of her cousins ​​during a phone call that took place on February 7 with her aunt in Gaza. Her aunt, crying, narrated how Israeli soldiers stormed their shelter in Al-Mawasi near Khan Yunis, and tied up the women and children.

The men met a different fate. Elaga’s aunt described how their cousins ​​were taken, along with their father, uncle and two male relatives. The soldiers left the shelter in ruins, and the family car’s tires were smashed, according to Elaga’s aunt. None of the men have been heard from since.

In the days that followed, Elagha sent a series of emails to the US embassies in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Cairo, as well as to a US task force on Gaza. She received only one response confirming receipt of her appeal.

She said waiting for information was painful. “Minutes feel like hours, so it feels like it’s already been a month since she’s been gone.”

Allegations of fabricated charges

Suleiman Hamid, a Louisiana resident, shared a similar experience at the event hosted by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR).

He said his 46-year-old Palestinian-American mother, Samaher Ismail, was as well He was detained by Israel In the occupied West Bank last Monday, he has not been able to speak to her since.

He explained that he only received one call from an embassy official following her arrest. Hamed explained that days had passed, but the consular staff did not visit her as she was detained in Damoun Prison in Haifa.

“Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday and now Monday again. “No one from the US embassy visited or spoke to my mother, who is an American citizen.”

While waiting for her in prison, Hamed worries about his mother’s health. Her lawyer told him that she had not received her medication since her arrest.

“It has been seven days and she has not received any medication yet. This has greatly deteriorated her condition,” Hamad said. “We have repeatedly asked the US embassy to send a consular officer to my mother, so we can get an update on her condition.”

He explained that his mother was arrested on charges of “incitement on social media.” Hamed and his brother Ibrahim fear that she will be targeted in retaliation for the lawsuit she filed against the Israeli army, after she was beaten during a traffic stop in 2022.

Human rights groups have long accused the Israeli authorities of using… Fabricated charges “Incitement” to oppress Palestinians and suppress freedom of expression.

But arrests in general in the occupied West Bank have increased since the war began on October 7. The Palestinian Prisoner Club, an advocacy organization, had documented 6,870 arrests as of last week.

“Israel is trying to use my mother as an example,” Hamed said. “They are trying to intimidate Palestinians and Palestinian Americans. If this can happen to a Palestinian-American woman, it can happen to you too.”

Ibrahim Hamed and Suleiman Hamed are sons of American Samaher Ismail
Ibrahim Hamed and Suleiman Hamed, sons of American Samaher Ismail, talk about her continued detention in Israeli prisons (Joseph Stepanski/Al Jazeera)

Reports of beatings and degrading treatment

Since the beginning of the war on Gaza on October 7, allegations of enforced disappearances, abuses and torture at the hands of Israeli forces have also increased.

In January, Ajith Songai, head of the UN Human Rights Office in the occupied Palestinian territories, published an article a report Where he collected accounts of detainees.To be beaten and humiliatedThey were subjected to ill-treatment and what may amount to torture.”

Many of them were detained for between 35 and 55 days, Songai wrote. His report and others raised concerns for families of detainees.

“Even though everything we knew happens to Palestinian men when Israel detains them, especially since October 7, we can only imagine the torture they face,” Elagha said of her cousins.

Meanwhile, Hamed recalls how his mother’s lawyer described bruises on her arms and back. He and his brother believe she was beaten by Israeli forces. The lawyer told them that Ismail lost consciousness twice during an interview in prison.

Failure to follow protocols

When asked about US citizens detained abroad, the State Department said it was working to ensure their fair and humane treatment.

“As you know, we have no higher priority than the safety and security of American citizens abroad,” department spokesman Vedant Patel told reporters on February 8.

But Mariah Carey, an immigration lawyer, told Al Jazeera that the State Department’s position is not enough. She is working with Burak’s family and Hashim Agha to file a lawsuit against the government.

She told Al Jazeera that the Biden administration appears to have not followed proper protocol in situations where an American citizen is held hostage or forcibly disappeared, whether by a non-state actor or a state actor.

“Here, we have Israeli soldiers who wrongly detained (the Alagha brothers) in enforced disappearance, all of which is extremely illegal and in direct conflict with domestic US laws and international laws,” she said.

She explained that this situation “should require immediate consular access.” “The president is supposed to be engaged. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is supposed to coordinate all these teams.”

“None of that happened here, which is terrible,” she added.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs did not respond to a request for comment from Al Jazeera regarding these cases.

Suleiman and Ibrahim Hamed said the lack of response they received made them feel “ignored.” At Monday’s press conference, they called on the United States to reconsider its steadfast support for Israel, as allegations of human rights violations in Gaza and the West Bank continue to mount.

The brothers are from Gretna, Louisiana, a city that has already suffered from violence. Their hometown is the same as their hometown Tawfiq Ajaqa 17-year-old Palestinian-American man who was killed in a shooting incident last January involving an Israeli settler and an off-duty police officer in the occupied West Bank.

The Hamed siblings wondered whether US support for Israel deprives them of societal justice.

“We, as American taxpayers, are funding this prison not only for my mother, but also for the imprisonment of innocent people, especially Palestinians,” Ibrahim said.

“If we had been white Christians or Israeli Americans, would the embassy have responded faster?” Suleiman added. “This is the question I ask myself on a daily basis.”

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