Home News Release of Shifa Hospital Director Causes National Uproar in Israel

Release of Shifa Hospital Director Causes National Uproar in Israel

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Palestinians and human rights groups welcomed the release on Monday of the director of Gaza’s largest hospital, who had been detained by Israel for more than seven months without charge. Causing uproar in Israeli politics and exposed growing tensions among government officials.

Mohammad Abu Salmiya is the director of Gaza City’s Al-Shifa Hospital, which was the focus of Israel’s early invasion of Gaza. In custody Hassan Ali was stopped at an Israeli checkpoint in late November while traveling with a U.N. ambulance convoy evacuating patients from a hospital to southern Gaza, according to Gaza’s Ministry of Health and the Palestinian Red Crescent Society.

The Israeli military later released evidence to prove Hamas was active inside the Shifa complex, including showing journalists a reinforced tunnel built beneath the complex. A New York Times investigation suggested that Hamas had used the site as a cover and to store weapons there.

The release of Dr. Abu Salmiya appeared to have taken Israeli officials by surprise. Far-right minister Itamar Ben Gvir, who has been charged with national security crimes, called the release of Dr. Abu Salmiya a “security oversight” and accused Defense Minister Yoav Galant and Shin Bet intelligence chief Ronan Bar of formulating policies that contradicted the government’s decision.

Galant’s office shirked responsibility, issuing a statement saying the release of the detainees “did not require the approval of the defense minister.” The Israel Prison Service said in a statement that the decision was made by the Israeli military and the Shin Bet Directorate, but the military said Dr. Abu Salmiya was not being held.

Even Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu distanced himself from the decision. In a statement on Monday, he called the release of the hospital director “a grave mistake and moral failure,” saying he and other key authorities had not been informed and that anyone responsible should be jailed.

Seeking to quell growing anger, Netanyahu said he was investigating the decision and expected a response from Shin Bet chief Barr later on Monday. He also said he would set up a panel of security and military officials to review the detainees before releasing them.

Benny Gantz, a centrist minister who resigned from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s wartime cabinet in early June, suggested to Mr Netanyahu in a statement on Monday: “Prime Minister, if you close some government offices. I am sure that space and money will be freed up for prisons.”

Mr Gantz used the opportunity to reiterate his call for elections.

At a news conference in Khan Yunis in southern Gaza on Monday, a frail Dr. Abu Salmiya said nearly 50 other Palestinian detainees, including other doctors and health ministry staff, had also been released and returned to Gaza.

“We were tortured terribly,” said Dr. Abu Salmiya, who said he was repeatedly beaten on the head and had his fingers broken.

Rights groups say Abu Salmiya’s lengthy detention without charge is an example of Israel’s abuse of Palestinian prisoners and his release comes as Israel’s Supreme Court considers a petition to close Sde Teiman, a military barracks-turned-prison where thousands of Gazans have been held since the start of the war last year.

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