RAMALLAH, West Bank (AP) — Israeli forces have arrested a 46-year-old Palestinian American woman after breaking into her home and pulling her from her bed in the occupied West Bank, her family said Tuesday, saying they had no idea where she was nearly two days after she was detained.
News of the arrest came just ahead of Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s arrival in Israel on a diplomatic mission aimed at forging a cease-fire in Israel’s war in the Gaza Strip. Samaher Esmail’s congressman in her home state of Louisiana vowed “to get to the bottom” of her arrest, while the State Department said it was looking into the matter.
Relatives said that Israeli soldiers burst into the woman’s house while she was sleeping in the early hours of Monday and pulled her out of bed in the West Bank town of Silwad. A video of the incident posted to Twitter by her son showed soldiers surrounding her and herding her into an armored vehicle.
“They broke into her house and pulled her out, took her out of her bed,” said her brother, 35-year-old Mubarak Esmail, who lives in the U.S. “They didn’t even let her put on her hijab,” or traditional headcovering. He said his sister lived alone and probably did not even hear the soldiers because she takes medication for her uterine cancer that makes her drowsy.
The Israeli military said she had been arrested for “incitement on social media” and taken away for questioning.
Esmail is from Gretna, Louisiana, the same hometown of a Palestinian American teenager who was recently killed by Israeli fire in a nearby village. The death of 17-year-old Tawfic Abdel Jabbar drew an expression of concern from the White House and an uncommonly quick pledge to investigate from the Israeli police. No findings from that investigation have yet been released.
Esmail’s family said she often traveled back and forth between West Bank and the U.S., where she managed a family-owned grocery store in Gretna and worked as a tutor at a nearby high school. The family is in touch with U.S. Embassy officials but said they know nothing about her current whereabouts.
Rep. Troy A. Carter, Democrat of Louisiana, said he was “deeply concerned” by the arrest.
“I am in contact with the American Embassy and the State Department to get to the bottom of why she is being held and will continue to gather facts about this ongoing situation. I am praying for her safety,” he said.
A U.S. government spokesperson said the State Department was aware of reports that a U.S. citizen had been detained and was “seeking additional information” about the incident but had no further comment.
Late Tuesday, Blinken arrived in Israel, where he is expected to press ahead with efforts to at least pause Israel’s offensive in Gaza and curb violence in the West Bank.
Since the Gaza war erupted on Oct. 7, Israel also has held the territory under a tight-grip, staging often-deadly raids into cities and villages and arresting dozens of Palestinians, in some cases accused of posting inciting material on social media.