Award-winning Palestinian poet Mosab Abu Toha detained by Israeli forces amid Gaza evacuations
Israeli forces arrested renowned Gaza-based Palestinian poet and author Mosab Abu Toha on Monday, as he was fleeing Israel’s ferocious bombardment of the territory, according to reports, citing his brother.
Abu Toha was taken into custody by the Israeli army as he reached a checkpoint while leaving north Gaza to the south, his brother Hamza stated in a post on Facebook.
"His wife and children entered the south [of Gaza] and arrested my brother. We [don’t know] anything about him. It is worth noting that the US embassy had sent him and his family to travel through the Rafah crossing," the brother further said.
Abu Toha, an award-winning poet, recently published essays describing life under Israel’s indiscriminate strikes on Gaza, which have been pounding the war-hit territory since October 7 amid its most vicious military campaign in 70 years.
Mosab Abu Toha's brother says that the poet and his family were evacuating to the south when they were stopped at a checkpoint. The Israeli army took him away, and the family has no news since. Mosab had been instructed by the U.S. embassy to get to the Rafah crossing. #freemosab https://t.co/EMCFvUDqKX— Laila Lalami (@LailaLalami) November 20, 2023
Israel’s brutal onslaught has killed at least 13,300 Palestinians, including 5,600 children. The bombardment has targeted schools, refugee camps, hospitals and residential buildings, partially and fully destroying 45 percent of the territory’s housing units. Moreover, Israel has demanded that Palestinians evacuate to southern Gaza, displacing over a million people and sparking fears of a second Nakba or catastrophe.
In an essay published in The New Yorker on October 20, Abu Toha wrote about evacuating from Beit Lahia to the Jabalia refugee camp and subsequently returning to his home again. The poet wrote of the "shocking scenes" caused by Israeli shelling in Gaza, and bombing he had heared.
In a Facebook post six days ago, Abu Toha said: "We don't have access to food or clean water. Winter is coming and we don't have enough clothes. Kids are suffering, we are suffering."
"Who can stop this? Please stop it now," he further expressed.
The PEN International NGO on freedom of expression, stressed it was "deeply concerned about Abu Toha's arrest, and demanded to know his whereabouts and the reasons for his detention, in a statement on X.
Fellow writers and activists have also expressed concern of Abu Toha's detention, urging government action to secure his release.
Last year, Abu Toha published a collection of poems titled Things You May Find Hidden in My Ear, describing life under Israel's land, sea and air blockade siege in Gaza as a child and a father, as well as witnessing several military attacks.
The Gazan writer is also the founder of the territory’s first ever English-language library, named after Palestinian writer and academic Edward Said, as well as the winner of the Palestine Book Award and the American Book Award.