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Detained Palestinian poet Mosab Abu Toha released by Israeli forces

The Palestinian poet and author, Mosab Abu Toha, has been released after he was rounded up by Israeli forces along with scores of other Palestinian men trying to leave northern Gaza, according to his friends and Israeli officials.

A close friend of Abu Toha, the Palestinian-Canadian lawyer Diana Buttu said on social media he had been beaten while in Israeli detention and was receiving medical treatment after being returned to his family.

David Remnick, the editor of the New Yorker magazine, for which Abu Toha is a contributor, confirmed that the poet was back in Gaza and reunited with his family.

“We are relieved and grateful at the news that poet Mosab Abu Toha has been released and will be reunited with his family,” PEN America said in a statement. “Poets and writers must be free to speak truth without fear.”

According to his friends and family, Abu Toha was seized by Israeli troops at a checkpoint on Sunday, as part of a mass detention of Palestinian men, while he was attempting to reach Gaza’s southern border. He was making the trip with his wife and children after hearing from the US embassy in Israel that he was on a list of US citizens and their families allowed to cross into Egypt. One of his children was born in the US and is an American citizen.

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

“He’s one of our most prolific writers,” Buttu said. “To be so widely published at such a young age and to have got all these awards and acclaim for his writing, it shows you just how powerful a writer he is.”

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

Abu Toha and his family had taken refuge in Jabalia, where they heard their home in Beit Lahia had been bombed. In a New Yorker article published on 6 November, he described cycling to the house to try to salvage something from his small book collection.

“I hope to at least find a copy of my own poetry book, maybe near my neighbor’s olive tree, but there is nothing but debris. Nothing but the smell of explosions,” he wrote.

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

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