Doctor at Gaza's Al-Shifa hospital says director arrested by Israel

One other doctor and two nurses had been detained, as well as the hospital director.

November 23, 2023 08:30 pm | Updated 08:30 pm IST - Gaza Strip, Palestinian Territories

An image grab from a file handout video released by the Hamas Media Office, shows doctor Mohammad Abu Salmiya, director of Al-Shifa hospital in Gaza City. File

An image grab from a file handout video released by the Hamas Media Office, shows doctor Mohammad Abu Salmiya, director of Al-Shifa hospital in Gaza City. File | Photo Credit: AFP

A doctor at Gaza's largest hospital Al-Shifa told AFP that the facility's director and several other medical personnel were arrested by Israeli forces on Thursday.

The director, Mohammad Abu Salmiya, has been frequently quoted by international media about the conditions inside Al-Shifa, a major focus of an Israeli ground offensive following attacks by Palestinian militant group Hamas on October 7.

The Israeli army, which raided the hospital last week, has alleged that Hamas fighters used a tunnel complex beneath the facility in Gaza City to stage attacks.

Hamas and hospital officials have repeatedly denied the claims.

"Doctor Mohammad Abu Salmiya was arrested along with several other senior doctors," said Khalid Abu Samra, a chief of department at the hospital.

An official in the Hamas-run health ministry specified to AFP that one other doctor and two nurses had been detained, as well as the hospital director.

In a statement, Hamas said it "strongly denounces" the arrest of Salmiya and his colleagues, calling on the International Committee of the Red Cross and other international organisations to work towards their "immediate release".

Instructions to evacuate the hospital were issued on Saturday, prompting the exodus of hundreds of patients and displaced towards the supposedly safer south of the Palestinian territory.

Salmiya told AFP last week that he had received the evacuation order from Israeli forces after having refused a previous one.

But the Israeli army said the evacuations were carried out at the "request" of Salmiya.

The military released an audio recording presented as a conversation between Salmiya and a senior Israeli officer in which the two men blame each other for the evacuation.

On Thursday, the Palestine Red Crescent Society (PRCS) said it joined forces with the United Nations to evacuate a further 190 wounded and sick people, their companions and medical staff from Al-Shifa to other hospitals in the south of the Gaza Strip.

The evacuation took nearly 20 hours due to delays at the checkpoint separating northern and southern Gaza, it said on X, formerly Twitter, adding that three paramedics had been detained, two of whom were subsequently released.

On Wednesday, Israeli soldiers escorted journalists to a tunnel shaft at the hospital complex which they said was part of a vast underground network used by Hamas.

Israeli officials claim Hamas operated a command centre in tunnels under the hospital for years -- an accusation the Islamist movement and medical personnel reject.

Al-Shifa hospital has been the scene of an extended Israeli special forces operation as part of its war against militants in the Gaza Strip, where the Hamas-run government says more than 14,000 people have been killed, most of them women and children.

It came after Hamas gunmen poured across the border in an unprecedented attack on October 7. Israeli officials say about 1,200 people, mostly civilians, were killed and around 240 taken hostage.

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