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PEN International ‘deeply concerned’ by Palestinian poet’s reported arrest by Israeli forces

A Palestinian writer and poet who had been contributing to The New Yorker and other publications with reflections on his life inside Gaza during the war has been detained by the Israeli military, according to his brother.

Mosab Abu Toha was taken into custody by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) “when he reached the checkpoint while leaving from the north to the south” of Gaza, his brother Hamza Abu Toha said in a Facebook post Monday.

“His wife and children entered the south, and the army arrested my brother Mosab,” Hamza Abu Toha wrote on Facebook. “We have no information about him. It is worth mentioning that the American embassy sent him and his family to travel through the Rafah crossing.”

An American Book Award winner and finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award for his debut poetry book, “Things You May Find Hidden in My Ear,” Mosab Abu Toha, 30, had written searingly about the Israeli airstrikes that have decimated Gaza since war broke out last month between Israel and Hamas.

In a New Yorker essay published on October 20, he described returning to his home in Beit Lahia, in northern Gaza, days after evacuating to Jabalia refugee camp, where he had stayed with relatives.

“On the main street leading to my house, I find the first of many shocking scenes. A shop where I used to take my children, to buy juice and biscuits, is in shambles. The freezer, which used to hold ice cream, is now filled with rubble. I smell explosives, and maybe flesh,” he wrote.

In a Facebook post five days ago – his most recent post on the website – Abu Toha wrote that he was “alive” and begged for an end to the bloodshed.

“Thanks for your prayers. We don’t have any access to food or clean water. Winter is coming and we don’t have enough clothes. Kids are suffering. We are suffering,” he wrote, adding, “the army is now at Al-Shifa Hospital. More death, more destruction. Who can stop this? Please stop it now.”

PEN International, the global association of writers, said Monday that it is “deeply concerned” about Abu Toha.

“We join calls demanding to know his whereabouts and the reasons for his detention,” PEN said in a statement posted to X, the social media site formerly known as Twitter.

The New York Review of Books also posted about his reported detention on X, noting that “in May we published his poem “What a Gazan Should Do During an Israeli Air Strike.”

This is a breaking news story and will be updated.

This post appeared first on cnn.com

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