In a recent development, Israeli forces arrested the director of Al-Shifa, Gaza's largest hospital, and several medical personnel on Thursday. Dr. Mohammad Abu Salmiya, the hospital's director has been frequently quoted by international media about the conditions inside Al-Shifa, a major focus of the Israeli ground offensive following the Hamas’ October 7 attacks.
Palestinian health officials have confirmed the arrest, stating that another doctor and two nurses were also detained. The Israeli army, which raided the hospital last week, alleges that Hamas fighters used a tunnel complex beneath Al-Shifa for staging attacks. However, both Hamas and hospital officials have consistently denied these claims.
Gaza's Ministry of Health is seeking an explanation from the World Health Organization (WHO) as medics, travelling in a WHO convoy with patients, were stopped and detained by Israeli forces.
“The World Health Organization has not yet sent us any report to explain the situation including the numbers and names of those detained,” said Ashraf al-Qudra, a spokesperson for the health ministry, as reported by Al Jazeera.
Hamas issued a statement strongly denouncing the arrests and called on the International Committee of the Red Cross and other international organisations to work towards the immediate release of Dr. Abu Salmiya and his colleagues.
How Did It Start:
On Thursday afternoon, the Israeli military confirmed that Dr. Abu Salmiya had been taken for questioning by the Shin Bet internal security agency. They claimed evidence showing that Al-Shifa Hospital, under his management, served as a Hamas command and control centre.
The hospital site has been at the centre of accusations of war crimes on both sides, with Palestinians accusing Israel of targeting hospitals and Israel asserting that the sites were being used to shelter Hamas militants.
The WHO has reported 335 attacks on health complexes in the occupied Palestinian territory since October 7, including 164 attacks in the Gaza Strip and 171 attacks in the West Bank. These attacks have resulted in forced mass evacuations, multiple fatalities, and casualties among patients, their companions, and displaced people seeking refuge in these facilities.
Since October 7, more than 14,800 people have been reported killed in Gaza, while in Israel, the official death toll from Hamas attacks stands at about 1,200.