IDF arrests Gaza’s Shifa Hospital head, sends him for questioning as terror suspect

Mohammad Abu Salmiya nabbed while evacuating to the south via humanitarian corridor; Israel says hospital ‘under his direct management’ served as Hamas terror HQ

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, giving a press briefing on November 1, 2023, regarding the repercussions of fuel shortages on the hospital. (AFP Photo/HO/Hamas Media Office)
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, giving a press briefing on November 1, 2023, regarding the repercussions of fuel shortages on the hospital. (AFP Photo/HO/Hamas Media Office)

The director of Shifa Hospital in Gaza City was arrested by Israeli forces on Thursday morning, and taken for questioning by the Shin Bet security agency, Israeli officials said. Several other medical personnel from the hospital were also reportedly detained.

A joint statement issued by the IDF and Shin Bet said Mohammad Abu Salmiya had been arrested and was being interrogated on suspicion of enabling the hospital to be used by Hamas as an operations center.

“Mohammad Abu Salmiya was arrested along with several other senior doctors,” Khalid Abu Samra, a chief of department at the hospital, said earlier Thursday.

Army Radio reported that Abu Salmiya was detained as he was moving to evacuate to the south of the Strip via an IDF-opened humanitarian corridor.

Medhat Abbas, director of the Hamas-run Gaza health ministry also confirmed Abu Salmiya’s arrest.

The Israeli statement noted that “considerable evidence was revealed that the hospital, under his direct management, served as a headquarters of the terrorist organization Hamas.”

It said Hamas used many resources from the hospital, including electricity, to maintain a tunnel system under the facility.

“In addition, Hamas stored many weapons in and around the hospital,” the statement said, adding that there was “extensive terrorist activity” in the medical center which was under Abu Salmiya’s management.

In addition, after its massive October 7 attack on Israel, Hamas used the hospital as “a refuge for its terrorists and even took Israeli hostages there who were kidnapped on the day of the massacre,” the statement said.

It also noted that a pathological report has confirmed that Corporal Noa Marciano, a kidnapped IDF soldier, was murdered on the hospital grounds.

It said a decision on Abu Salmiya’s continued detention will be made in accordance with the outcome of his questioning and in accordance with the results of the investigation and his “involvement in terrorist activity.”

Shifa Hospital has been a major focus of the Israeli operation against Hamas in Gaza, which was triggered on October 7 when some 3,000 terrorists stormed the border with Israel and unleashed an unprecedented attack on the country’s southern communities, killing at least 1,200 people, most of them civilians, and taking some 240 hostages.

Israeli soldiers stand outside Shifa Hospital in Gaza City, November 22, 2023. (AP/Victor R. Caivano)

In response, Israel vowed to eliminate Hamas from Gaza and end the group’s 15-year rule, launching an aerial campaign and subsequent ground offensive to meet its goal.

Since the start of the war, Israel has presented evidence to back up the long-standing allegations that Hamas is using Shifa Hospital as a major operational hub and command center. The US later corroborated the evidence presented by Israel.

IDF troops first entered the hospital on November 15, and have been slowly working their way through the complex in order to uncover the underground bunkers and tunnels they believe Hamas is operating out of.

During the initial searches conducted inside the hospital, troops discovered assault rifles, grenades and other military equipment hidden in hospital wards.

On Wednesday, the IDF said it breached a blast door at the end of one such Hamas tunnel discovered last week, and published two images, one showing the open door and the other further inside the tunnel.

These images released by the IDF on November 21, 2023, show the inside of a Hamas tunnel found under Gaza’s Shifa Hospital. (Israel Defense Forces)

Israel has also published the hospital’s surveillance footage from October 7, which shows Hamas terrorists bringing a Nepali and a Thai citizen who were abducted from Israel on October 7 to the medical center.

Further images released by the IDF from the surveillance cameras at Shifa show Hamas terrorists inside the hospital, and outside the rooms of the hostages, as well as stolen IDF vehicles brought to the medical center.

While Shifa Hospital staff, including Abu Salmiya, have continued to deny that the medical complex is being used by the terror group, a former member of staff, a British doctor, confirmed in a recent interview that there were areas of the hospital where he could not go, or else he would be shot.

In a recent interview with the English-language channel of French broadcaster France24, the doctor, who declined to give his name for fear of endangering his colleagues in Gaza, said he had worked at Shifa and other hospitals in Gaza and the West Bank for three months, three years ago.

The physician also told the news outlet that if hospital staff were 10% frightened of possible Israeli airstrikes, they were 90% frightened of being persecuted by Hamas.

Emanuel Fabian and Gianluca Pacchiani contributed to this report.

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