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Doctor at Gaza hospital says director arrested by Israel

GAZA STRIP (AFP) – A doctor at Gaza’s largest hospital Al-Shifa told AFP the facility’s director and several other medical personnel were arrested by Israeli forces yesterday.

The director, Mohammad Abu Salmiya, has been frequently quoted by international media about the conditions inside Al-Shifa, a major focus of an Israeli ground offensive.

The Israeli army, which raided the hospital last week, alleged that Hamas fighters used a tunnel complex beneath the facility in Gaza City to stage attacks.

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

An official in the Hamas-run Health Ministry specified to AFP one other doctor and two nurses had been detained, as well as the hospital director.

Palestinians gather outside one of the departments of the Al-Shifa hospital complex in Gaza City in the northern Gaza Strip. PHOTO: AFP

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”.

Instructions to evacuate the hospital were issued on Saturday, prompting the exodus of hundreds of patients and displaced towards the supposedly safer south of the Palestinian territory.

Salmiya told AFP last week he received the evacuation order from Israeli forces after having refused a previous one. But the Israeli army said the evacuations were carried out at the “request” of Salmiya.

The military released an audio recording presented as a conversation between Salmiya and a senior Israeli officer in which the two men blame each other for the evacuation.

Israeli officials claim Hamas operated a command centre in tunnels under the hospital for years – an accusation the movement and medical personnel reject.

Al-Shifa hospital has been the scene of an extended Israeli special forces operation as part of its war against militants in the Gaza Strip, where the Hamas-run government said over 14,000 people have been killed, most of them women and children.