Noted Palestinian Poet Disappears in Gaza, Family Says

A celebrated Palestinian poet and essayist who founded the Gaza Strip’s first English-language library disappeared on Sunday after he was stopped by the Israeli military as his family was fleeing to southern Gaza, relatives said.

The free speech organization PEN America said on Monday that the poet, Mosab Abu Toha, had been detained by Israel and expressed concern. The Israeli military did not respond to questions about whether he had been detained.

Mr. Abu Toha, 31, his wife, three children and his brother-in-law had left a school where they were sheltering in northern Gaza on Sunday and joined thousands of others walking south with what few possessions they could carry, according to his wife, Maram Abu Toha, and her brother, Ibrahim May. The family was on a State Department evacuation list and was making its way to the Rafah border crossing with Egypt on Sunday when Mr. Abu Toha was taken, they said.

Israeli forces have taken over much of northern Gaza and ordered residents to move south as part of an air and land assault that followed the Oct. 7 attack on Israel by Hamas, the armed Palestinian group that controls Gaza.

Other families arriving in central and southern Gaza have reported that their sons, husbands and fathers with no connection to armed Palestinian groups have also vanished after being stopped by Israeli’s military along the evacuation route for those fleeing northern Gaza. Human rights organizations say they are trying to ascertain how many have been taken under these circumstances and where they are being held.

Mosab Abu Toha, a Palestinian poet and essayist, in a photo taken in September.Credit…Diana Buttu

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