Israeli forces arrest Al Shifa hospital director amid allegations of Hamas affiliation

Mohammad Abu Salmiya

24th November 2023 – (Gaza) The director of Al Shifa hospital, the largest medical facility in Gaza, was apprehended on Thursday, 23rd November, by Israeli forces citing allegations of the hospital’s use by the Hamas militant group.

Mohammad Abu Salmiya, the hospital’s director, has been a frequent source for international media shedding light on conditions within Al Shifa. The hospital became the centre of Israeli ground offensive attention following Hamas attacks on 7th October.

The Israeli military, having conducted a raid on the hospital last week, claimed that Hamas militants utilised a subterranean network beneath the hospital for staging assaults. Both hospital officials and Hamas have consistently refuted these allegations.

Palestinian health authorities reported that Abu Salmiya, another doctor, and two nurses were taken into custody. The Israeli military issued a statement asserting that the arrest of the hospital director followed “evidence showing that Shifa Hospital, under his direct management, served as a Hamas command and control centre”.

The statement further suggested “extensive Hamas terrorist activity” at the hospital during his tenure, adding that a Hamas tunnel network drew upon resources such as electricity from the facility. The military stated that further questioning of the director would hinge on whether he was found involved in “terrorist activity”.

Hamas, in a response statement, vociferously condemned the arrests of Salmiya and his colleagues, appealing to the International Committee of the Red Cross and other international bodies for their “immediate release”.

On Thursday evening, Ashraf al-Qudra, a spokesman for the Gaza health ministry, informed that the Indonesian Hospital in Gaza City had been “heavily bombarded”. He expressed concern for the patients and staff within the hospital, after significant parts of the building and the generators had been hit.

Al-Qudra noted that 180 patients and staff remained inside Al Shifa, despite the Israeli military’s alleged threats of bombing and repeated orders to evacuate broadcasted via loudspeakers. Al Shifa hospital has been the site of extensive Israeli special forces operations as part of their campaign against Gaza militants.

Last week, Salmiya told AFP that he had received evacuation orders from Israeli forces, prompting the departure of hundreds of patients and displaced individuals. However, the Israeli army claimed the evacuations were executed at Salmiya’s “request”, releasing an audio recording of a conversation between Salmiya and a senior Israeli officer, with both parties blaming each other for the evacuation.

On Thursday, the Palestinian Red Crescent joined forces with the United Nations to facilitate the evacuation of a further 190 injured and sick individuals, along with their companions and medical staff, from Al Shifa to other hospitals in southern Gaza. The operation took almost 20 hours due to checkpoint delays separating northern and southern Gaza.

Since the commencement of the Israeli military campaign, the Hamas-run government in Gaza reports nearly 15,000 casualties, the majority of whom were women and children. The conflict was triggered by an unprecedented attack by Hamas gunmen across the border on October 7.