A U.S. family has been trapped in the Gaza Strip for nearly two weeks amid deadly strikes from Israel Defense Forces as the military says it is working to hit Hamas targets.
Zakaria Alarayshi and his family have lived in Livonia, Michigan for the last 23 years. Alarayshi and his wife traveled back to Gaza just before Hamas militants attacked targets in Israel, including a music festival near the border with Gaza.
Since the early October attack, the American family has not been able to escape Gaza and return home, or evacuate to another country to find safety.
On Wednesday, Alarayshi shared a video filmed by a cell phone making a desperate plea to President Joe Biden and the U.S. government to intervene and get his family to safety.
"Life here is so bad. I can’t handle. I can’t handle here. This is no life here." Alarayshi said in the video."I can’t sleep. Bombs are everywhere. Every minute I count, I’m going to be dying the next minute," he said in the emotional request for action by the U.S. government.
Alarayshi said in the days he's been trapped in Gaza he has been forced to move to several different locations. He says his neighbor's home was hit by a rocket.
Alarayshi said he and his family have now run out of critically needed supplies and food after Israel cut off water, fuel and electricity needed to power water and sewage plants, a move confirmed by the Associated Press.
"We have to drink salt water. I don’t shower now for 12 days. No shave. No nothing. Food. It's hard to find the food. If you have the money. We cannot find food because it's gone," he said.
His family, who live in metro Detroit, have joined in with attorneys to file a lawsuit in the hopes of urging the U.S. government to provide the same evacuation support to citizens trapped in Gaza as they have to those in Israel.
The lawsuit alleges a violation of the 5th Amendment Equal Protection Clause.
Additionally, attorneys for the plaintiffs have established a hotline for other U.S. citizens trapped in Gaza. They say they’re now learning of several more U.S. citizens from Houston and California who have been unable to evacuate, which means more lawsuits could be filed soon.
"What we're calling upon is basically for them to evacuate. Give us a plan of action. How are we going to evacuate these United States citizens? One life is not worth more than another life," said Attorney Nabih Ayad, who is the founder of the Arab American Civil Rights League.
Ayad says legislators have to act now because lives depend on it.
"When you consider 90% of the border is controlled by Israel — a very close ally to our United States — as well as the other 10% or 20% controlled by Egypt — another ally of the United States — there's something that the United States can do," said Ayad. "They can talk to our close allies and tell them to make way for these individuals to get out."
This week, Ayad and other lawyers with the Alarayshi family planned to return to federal court to get a concrete plan of action from the Biden Administration on evacuations.
Any U.S. citizen trapped in Gaza is urged to reach out to the hotline at 1 (888) 806-3822.
This story was originally published by Whitney Burney and Collin Frederick at Scripps News Detroit.
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