Palestinian poet Refaat Alareer killed in Gaza | Israel-Gaza war

Palestinian poet Refaat Alareer killed in Gaza | Israel-Gaza war

Tributes poured in for the Palestinian poet Refaat Alareer on Friday after friends said he was killed in a strike on Gaza.

Alareer was one of the leaders of a young generation of writers in Gaza who chose to write in English to tell their stories, with friends describing his defiance in the face of the Israeli army’s assault on the Gaza Strip.

They said the poet had vowed to “throw (his) pen in the soldiers’ faces” as a last resort if his house was stormed.

“My heart is broken, my friend and colleague Refaat Alareer was killed with his family,” the Gazan poet Mosab Abu Toha wrote on Facebook.

The killing came as Israel conducted further strikes on Thursday evening in the north of the Gaza Strip, pressing on with its war to destroy Hamas in retaliation for the group’s 7 October attack.

Alareer said a few days after Israel began its ground offensive in October that he refused to leave northern Gaza, the centre of the fighting at the time.

“The whole family had asked him to leave because it was so dangerous, but he always replied ‘I’m only an academic, a civilian, at home. I’m not leaving’,” his friend Mohamed Al Arair, a history teacher in Shejaiya, to the east of Gaza City, told AFP.

Writing on X, Alareer documented daily life under Israeli bombardment in Gaza. He also prompted controversy on occasion with his remarks about Israel and Hamas.

“We are enveloped in thick layers of gunpowder and cement,” he posted in one of his last messages, on 4 December. “Many are still trapped in Shejaiya including some of my children and family members,” he wrote the same day.

His friend Arair said: “There’s nowhere safe in Gaza, so he chose to stay in his house,” describing how others had left for the south only to be killed by Israeli forces.

Another friend, Ahmed Alnaouq, wrote on X: “Refaat’s assassination is tragic, painful and outrageous. It is a huge loss.”

Alareer was a professor of English literature at the Islamic University of Gaza, where he taught Shakespeare among other subjects.

Soon after the 7 October Hamas attack – which killed about 1,200 people, mostly civilians, with about 240 kidnapped – Alareer caused outrage during a BBC interview by calling it “legitimate and moral” and “exactly like the Warsaw ghetto uprising”, the broadcaster said.

During the 1943 uprising hundreds of Jews launched a futile revolt against their Nazi oppressors, with 14,000 Jews killed during and immediately after the uprising.

Alareer also rejected allegations that Hamas militants raped victims of the 7 October attack, writing on X: “ALL the rape/sexual violence allegations are lies. Israel uses them as smokescreens to justify the Gaza genocide.”

More than 17,400 people, mostly civilians, have been killed in Gaza since the start of the war, according to the Hamas-run health ministry.

Anger over the accusations of rape and other sexual violence has grown in recent days. But Israeli doctors and officials say the allegations are backed up by evidence, including witness accounts and forensic investigations.

Alareer was one of the co-founders of the “We are not numbers” project, which pairs authors from Gaza with mentors abroad who help them write stories in English about their experiences.

The Literary Hub website paid tribute to him, while the author and journalist Ramzy Baroud wrote on X: “Rest in peace, Refaat Alareer. We will continue to be guided by your wisdom, today and for eternity.”

In November, Alareer published a poem on X entitled “If I must die” that was shared tens of thousands of times. It concludes with the words: “If I must die, let it bring hope, let it be a tale.”

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