Shin Bet said to reprimand agent who signed off on Shifa director’s release to Gaza

Agency chief reportedly presents findings of internal probe to Netanyahu after outrage over freeing of hospital head

Shin Bet chief Ronen Bar speaks at a Memorial Day ceremony at the agency's headquarters in Tel Aviv, May 13, 2024. (Screenshot: Shin Bet)
Shin Bet chief Ronen Bar speaks at a Memorial Day ceremony at the agency's headquarters in Tel Aviv, May 13, 2024. (Screenshot: Shin Bet)

The Shin Bet security service has reportedly reprimanded the senior official who was responsible for signing off on the release of Gaza City’s Shifa Hospital director Mohammad Abu Salmiya from Israeli prison earlier this week.

The agency conducted an internal probe into Abu Salmiya’s release following uproar from across the political spectrum, because Shifa had served as a Hamas command center and was used to hold some hostages after the terror group’s devastating October 7 attack on Israel.

Shin Bet chief Ronen Bar presented the findings to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday, Channel 12 reported.

The probe found that the National Security Council instructed the Shin Bet to compile a list of Palestinian prisoners to be released due to a lack of space in Israeli jails, Channel 12 said, adding that National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir had failed to address the issue despite months of warnings, with jails filled with large numbers of Hamas and Islamic Jihad terror suspects taken into custody during the Gaza war.

The Shin Bet compiled a list of suspects it believed had a low likelihood of engaging in terror activity after their release, and Abu Salmiya was included on it, even though he is seen as a figure with symbolic significance due to his role as Shifa director, Channel 12 said.

According to the network, the reprimanded Shin Bet official has been involved in many operations over the past few months, including actions to rescue hostages and strike senior Hamas officials. Bar reportedly saw the reprimand as the best way to deal with the release of Abu Salmiya and laid down a process to prevent it from being repeated.

Shifa Hospital director Mohammed Abu Salmiya makes a statement after his release from Israeli prison alongside other detainees, at Nasser Hospital in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip, July 1, 2024. (Bashar TALEB / AFP)

Abu Salmiya’s release, as well as social media videos of him being greeted upon his return to Gaza, drew instant fury in Israel, leading to a bitter round of mutual recriminations between government officials.

The rancorous exchange of accusations regarding responsibility for the incident included Ben Gvir, who is responsible for the prison service, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, Shin Bet chief Bar, the Israel Prison Service, and Netanyahu who said the release was a “grave mistake.”

Hamas led a massive October 7 cross-border raid on Israel that killed 1,200 people and saw 251 taken hostage to Gaza.

Israel responded with a military offensive to destroy Hamas, topple its regime, and free the hostages.

Abu Salmiya was arrested by IDF troops in November on suspicion of having allowed Hamas to use the Gaza City hospital as a center of operations. He was detained and taken for questioning by the Shin Bet as he was attempting to evacuate to the south of the Strip via an IDF-operated humanitarian corridor.

The Israel Defense Forces have previously released video footage of Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad operatives detailing how they used Shifa Hospital as a base for terror operations, offering a glimpse into just how embedded the terror groups were in the medical facility.

Under Abu Salmiya’s watch, Shifa was developed into a major Hamas command center, in which the IDF killed hundreds of gunmen and uncovered a substantial tunnel network where hostages were held, and where, according to the IDF, at least one hostage, Noa Marciano, was killed.

Abu Salmiya, meanwhile, told reporters in Gaza that he was “surprised” that members of the Israeli government didn’t know he had left prison.

In a statement to local reporters, he said he had been released unconditionally without charges.

National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir speaks at a meeting of his Otzma Yehudit party, at the Knesset in Jerusalem on June 10, 2024. (Chaim Goldberg/Flash90)

State Comptroller Matanyahu Englman said on Tuesday he may open an examination as to how Abu Salmiya was set free.

The Shin Bet has long warned of overcrowding in Israeli prisons, saying this was resulting in many Palestinian detainees walking free to make room for other inmates.

Netanyahu has ordered the creation of an interagency body to oversee future decisions to release detainees following their interrogations.

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