Director of Al-Shifa Hospital Muhammad Abu Salmiya was taken into custody, along with other medical staff members, by Israeli forces on Thursday, 23 November, according to AFP.
Gaza’s Health Ministry spokesman, Ashraf Al Qudra, declared that the arrests constitute a “terrorist move” directed at Gaza’s medical staff and employees “who have been working under extreme and difficult circumstances for the last 47 days.”
According to Israeli media, Abu Salmiya is being questioned by the Shin Bet, Israel’s interior security service, and military intelligence, and that he was detained while attempting to flee from the south of the Gaza Strip.
The Israeli army ordered all patients and displaced Palestinians who were finding shelter within and outside of Al-Shifa Hospital — the largest in Gaza — to leave. Israel claimed that this was done to allow Israeli forces to inspect the building for possible Hamas infrastructure.
Following their encirclement and bombardment of nearby regions, Israeli soldiers stormed the hospital last week, leaving more than 20 patients dead while approximately 1,500 civilians, 600 patients, and 700 staff members sought shelter inside.
Both hospital officials and Hamas refute the Israeli military’s claim that Hamas is using the facility as a shield.
Due to fuel shortages and power outages, 40 patients—including premature babies—have died at Al-Shifa since 11 November.
After being evacuated from Al-Shifa hospital to Rafah the day before, ambulances carrying twenty-eight premature babies crossed into Egypt on 20 November in order to receive life-saving treatment.
Earlier this week, the World Health Organization (WHO) said that Al-Shifa hospital has become a “death zone,” with a mass grave at the entrance and only 25 staff members remaining to care for 291 patients.
THE CONFLICT SO FAR
After a surprise attack conducted on 7 October by Hamas on a number of southern Israeli towns which resulted in the deaths of an estimated 1,200 people and more than 220 being taken hostage by Hamas, Israel launched a retaliatory bombing campaign against what it describes as ‘terrorist targets’ in the Gaza Strip.
At least 13,000 Palestinians have been killed in the Gaza Strip — including at least 5,500 children — and over 32,000 others injured. Meanwhile, at least 225 Palestinians have been killed in the West Bank and more than 2,700 injured. The death toll is no longer being regularly updated due to the collapse of the enclave’s health system.
The priority of the Egyptian government since the beginning of the conflict has been deescalation and the securing of a path for aid to enter the Gaza Strip through the Rafah crossing. Israel bombed the crossing at least six times, and limited aid trucks have crossed to Gaza so far, which UN officials warn is insufficient amid dire humanitarian conditions.
Most Western countries, with the United States at the forefront, have expressed unconditional support for Israel, despite the steadily rising death toll in Gaza. Meanwhile, the United Nations General Assembly has issued a resolution calling for a ceasefire.