Acclaimed poet arrested in Gaza: reports

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Mosab Abu Toha, a Palestinian-born poet, has been arrested by Israeli authorities in the Hamas-governed Gaza Strip, multiple media outlets have reported.

Attorney Diana Buttu told The Washington Post on Monday that Toha was arrested by Israeli officials when he, along with his family, were attempting to evacuate southern Gaza. Toha was arrested at a checkpoint along with about 200 other people, Buttu said.

Toha recently returned to his home country after completing his graduate studies in the U.S., according to the Post. 

Colleagues of Toha said that the poet is currently being detained by Israeli authorities.

“It’s very scary,” writer Laura Albast, a friend and colleague of Toha, told the newspaper. “We don’t know where he is.”

Buttu also said that Toha has been in contact with the U.S. government in the past weeks in an effort to gain the approval to evacuate his family from the war-torn strip. 

One of Toha’s three children, Mostafa, 3, was born in the U.S. and is a U.S. citizen, the Post reported. 

In a statement to the Post, an Israel Defense Forces spokesperson said it is looking into the matter. 

The ordeal comes as Toha, 30, gained acclaim in recent years for his work as a poet, having his work published in major publications such as The New Yorker and The New York Times. 

Toha, who founded an English-language library in the territory, was also named a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Awards earlier this year for his 2022 collection, “Things You May Find Hidden in My Ear: Poems from Gaza.”

The New Yorker, which published Toha’s first-person essay earlier this month about daily life in the besieged territory of Gaza, issued a statement in its daily newsletter calling for Toha’s safe return to the U.S., the Post noted. 

“The Palestinian poet @MosabAbuToha lives with his wife and three children in Gaza. Over the weekend, Israeli forces reportedly detained Abu Toha in central Gaza,” the publication wrote in a post on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter. “The New Yorker joins other organizations in calling for his safe return.”

It’s been a month since Hamas’s surprise attack against Israel, which resulted in the deaths of 1,200 people and the taking of around 240 hostages.

In response, Israel has launched a series of airstrikes and a ground invasion in Gaza, resulting in the death of at least 13,000 Palestinians, according to the Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry.

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