Palestinian poet Mosab Abu Toha released after questioning, IDF says

Palestinian poet and writer Mosab Abu Toha, who had been contributing to The New Yorker and other publications with reflections on his life inside Gaza during the war, has been released from detention after questioning, according to the Israel Defense Forces (IDF).

In a statement Tuesday, the IDF said that Abu Toha was among a group of civilians who was taken into questioning during operations, when “there was intelligence indicating of a number of interactions between several civilians and terror organizations inside the Gaza Strip.”

The poet’s brother, Hamza Abu Toha, recounted the story of his detention in a Facebook post Monday.

Abu Toha was taken into custody by the IDF “when he reached the checkpoint while leaving from the north to the south” of Gaza, reads the post.

“His wife and children entered the south, and the army arrested my brother Mosab,” continues the post. “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.”

The circumstances of Abu Toha’s arrest are unclear. CNN has reached out to the IDF for comment. A US State Department spokesman earlier said he didn’t have information to share on the situation.

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 developing news story and will be updated.

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