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Palestinian poet Mosab Abu Toha arrested by Israelis in Gaza, family says | Gaza


The American Book Award winner was heading south toward the Rafah crossing when he was stopped at a checkpoint.

Monday, November 20, 2023 5:29 p.m. EST

A famous Palestinian poet and author, Mosab Abu Toha, was arrested by Israeli forces while trying to leave Gaza, according to his friends and family.

Abu Toha was informed by U.S. authorities that he and his family could cross the Egyptian border, as one of his children was a U.S. citizen. They were on their way from north to south Gaza, heading towards the Rafah crossing on Sunday, when he was stopped along with other Palestinians at an Israeli military checkpoint.

“The army took Mosab when he arrived at the checkpoint, moving from the north to the south, as the army had ordered. The American embassy sent him and his family through the Rafah crossing,” the poet’s brother, Hamza, said on social media. “We haven’t heard anything from him.”

A friend of Abu Toha, Diana Buttu, a Palestinian-Canadian lawyer and former spokesperson for the Palestine Liberation Organization, said: “Her son, who was born in America, was allowed to be evacuated ago a few weeks ago, but Mosab’s name was not on the list.

“Eventually they got his name, his wife’s name and the names of the other children on the list, and they were waiting to come out when it was safe,” Buttu said. “They were trying to evacuate from the north to the south when they were stopped at a checkpoint with many others. They were told to raise their arms to show they had nothing. Mosab was ordered to shoot his son, then the army seized him and many other men, 200 people, his wife said. Since then, his wife has not heard from him.

Neither the US State Department nor the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) responded to requests for comment.

Abu Toha wrote in the New Yorker magazine about his experiences under bombardment in the Jabalia refugee camp in northern Gaza. A collection of his poetry published in English in the United States was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle award and won an American Book Award this year.

“He is one of our most prolific writers,” Buttu said. “To be so widely published at such a young age and to have received all these awards and praise for his writing, it shows what a powerful writer he is. »

“He’s an incredible poet,” said Laura Albast, a Palestinian journalist, editor and friend of Abu Toha. “The poetry he writes is very accessible, but it is also a representation of what is happening to us, describing how he was riding his bike trying to get home while the bombs were falling.”

Abu Toha and his family had taken refuge in Jabalia, where they learned that their house in Beit Lahia had been bombed. In a New Yorker article published on November 6, he described riding his bicycle to his house to try to retrieve something from his small book collection.

“I hope to at least find a copy of my own book of poetry, perhaps near my neighbor’s olive tree, but there is only debris. Just the smell of explosions,” he wrote.

“Now I am sitting in my temporary home in Jabalia camp, waiting for a ceasefire. I feel like I’m in a cage. I am killed every day with my people. The only two things I can do is panic and breathe. There is no hope here.

“His whereabouts are now unknown,” the New Yorker reported on its website Monday evening, saying it was joining other organizations in calling for his safe return.

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