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Israel's military zones in on Gaza hospital chiefs, doctors

Israel's military zones in on Gaza hospital directors in persistent attack on healthcare
4 min read
20 December, 2023
The directors of three hospitals in Gaza have been detained and interrogated in the space of a few days, as Israel targets Gaza's healthcare with impunity.
Israel has attacked hospitals and their staff in Gaza throughout its onslaught on the Palestinian territory [Abed Zagout/Anadolu via Getty]

Two and a half months into its brutal war on Gaza that has killed almost 20,000 people, Israel appears to be focusing some of its brutality towards directors of hospitals in the beleaguered Palestinian territory.

As Israeli forces strike and raid hospitals, they have been rounding up, binding, stripping and beating medical staff and people sheltering in the facilities by the dozen.

Israel says it targets hospitals because Hamas fighters use them as bases from which to target them; among the latest raids was one on the Al-Ahli Baptist Hospital on Monday.

At least three hospital directors have been detained and interrogated by the Israeli military, for their alleged ties or coordination with Hamas fighters.

In a bid to reinforce its narrative that these directors are working with or supporting the Palestinian group, Israel on Tuesday released a video in which the director of the Kamal Adwan hospital, Ahmed al-Kahlout, purportedly claimed that he and more than a dozen other healthcare staff are members of Hamas.

Dr Ahmed Muhanna, director of the Al-Awda Hospital, was also recently arrested by Israeli forces. Al-Awda had been under an Israeli siege for well over a week at the time of Muhanna's arrest; the hospital, like others in Gaza, has since been turned into a military barracks.

Mohammed Abu Salmiyeh, the director of Gaza's largest hospital, Al-Shifa, has also been detained by Israeli forces. He had also been detained in November.

The detentions have raised widespread alarm, with Action Aid calling on Tuesday for the immediate release of doctors being held in Gaza.

The NGO said that the detentions of Muhanna, Kahlout and Abu Salmiyeh, as well as other healthcare staff, were alarming.

"We call for all three, and all other healthcare staff, to be released immediately, so that they can continue to provide life-saving care for their patients."

In a post of social media platform 'X', it called "for international humanitarian law to be upheld and medical facilities & health workers to not be targeted".

Israel has been targeting hospitals and other healthcare infrastructure and staff since the start of its latest onslaught on Gaza, as well as in previous campaigns.

Days into its ruthless bombing campaign, it struck the Al-Ahli Hospital in Gaza City, killing almost 500 people in a single attack. Israel had claimed the strike had been conducted by Palestinian militants, providing fabricated evidence to back its claim.

Bombings, stormings and other attacks on hospitals are a breach of international law, but Israel has been able to carry out such attacks unimpeded, given only the occasional stern warning and remote threat of withdrawal of aid from its backers.

Away from hospitals, doctors and other healthcare staff face the ever-looming threat of airstrikes, with several doctors having been killed in their homes since Israel began its war on Gaza.

Just over a week into the onslaught, the home of Omar Saleh Farwana, a renowned infertility and IVF specialist who worked at the Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City, was hit in an Israeli airstrike, killing the doctor and more than a dozen relatives. Among the dead was his daughter Aya, also a doctor.

Medhat Saidam, a veteran burns specialist at Al-Shifa, had worked and slept at the hospital for a week since the start of the war. He was killed when an Israeli missile struck his home on 15 October after he returned to check on family, according to the health ministry. Saidam and the members of family at home were killed in the strike.

On 12 November, an Israeli missile struck the home of Gaza's only kidney transplant doctor, Dr. Humam Al-Louh, killing him and his father.

The New Arab's Gaza correspondent, Sally Ibrahim, contributed to this report