Israeli army arrests al-Shifa Hospital director, other doctors in Gaza

Director Muhammad Abu Salmiya and several other medical personnel detained as Israel continues its Gaza offensive.

Mohammad Abu Salmiya
Mohammad Abu Salmiya, the director of al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza, was arrested on Thursday [Screengrab/Al Jazeera]

The Israeli army has arrested the director of al-Shifa Hospital, the largest medical complex in the besieged Gaza Strip.

Hospital director Muhammad Abu Salmiya was held for questioning following “evidence showing that Shifa Hospital, under his direct management, served as a Hamas command and control centre”, the Israeli military said in a statement on Thursday.

Palestinian health officials confirmed the arrest and said another doctor and two nurses were also detained.

Gaza’s ministry of health said it wants an explanation from the World Health Organization, as medics were travelling in a WHO convoy with patients when they 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.

He said the ministry has decided to stop coordination with the WHO regarding evacuations until they send them a report explaining what happened.

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”.


Days before the arrests, “two Palestinian paramedics had been arrested by the Israeli occupation forces”, said Al Jazeera’s Tareq Abu Azzoum, reporting from southern Gaza on Thursday.

“This gives a clear sign that there is no immunity inside the Gaza Strip, neither for medical workers, civil defence crews or even journalists, as the attacks have reached all classes in the Palestinian community.”

Al-Shifa Hospital has been a major focus of Israel’s ground offensive in northern Gaza. The army ordered an evacuation of the facility on Saturday, but the handful of staff remaining there say there are about 180 patients still inside.

The Israeli army, which raided the hospital last week, allege 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.

Indonesian Hospital

Meanwhile on Thursday, Munir al-Bursh, the director-general of Gaza’s Health Ministry, said the Israeli army gave people in the Indonesian Hospital just hours to evacuate the facility in northern Gaza.

He said there are about 200 patients left at the hospital after some 450 patients were evacuated yesterday, and he told Al Jazeera that bombing continues from all sides in the vicinity.

“This hospital is considered to be the main central hospital that is still operating in the north of the Gaza Strip, alongside another two central hospitals,” Al Jazeera’s Abu Azzoum said, adding that there are patients, medical workers and displaced people inside.

“Both hospitals [al-Shifa and the Indonesian hospital] are witnessing a very serious and even critical condition as the Israeli troops are still encircling and even exerting significant control,” our correspondent said.

On Wednesday, the UN’s humanitarian office said the Israeli army “obstructed” a convoy of ambulances transporting 190 wounded and sick patients from al-Shifa Hospital to the south, resulting in the journey taking almost 20 hours.

The lengthy delay at the Israeli military checkpoint dividing north and south Gaza put “the lives of the wounded and sick people in danger”, according to the Palestine Red Crescent Society (PRCS).

The medical service has earlier said that 14 of its ambulances, two UN buses and other vehicles were involved in the evacuation of the patients, as well as “a number of medical teams” from al-Shifa Hospital.

The PRCS said three paramedics and a companion of one of the wounded patients were detained for more than three hours in the cold, while the patients were transferred to hospitals in the south.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies