Video of Al-Shifa hospital director Mohammed Abu Selmia (center) with his family and other detainees after their release from a hospital in Khan Younis (Gaza Strip), July 1, 2024.

In videos posted on social media on Monday, July 1, the director of Gaza’s Al-Shifa hospital, Muhammad Abu Salmiya, released by Israel after more than seven months in detention, appears slimmed down and weakened. The Palestinian doctor said he suffered “almost daily torture” while imprisoned in Israel. He was arrested at the end of November 2023, and the Israeli army had claimed that, under his direction, the hospital had been the “scene of numerous Hamas terrorist activities,” which he has always denied. He was neither tried nor convicted.

According to the daily Haaretz, the decision to release the director of Al-Shifa Hospital, against whom a permanent detention order had been issued, was taken on the recommendations of the domestic intelligence service – the Shin Bet – and military intelligence, following a reassessment of the information concerning him. The Shin Bet confirmed that Abu Salmiya had passed a risk assessment “in relation to” other detainees and met the criteria for release. Two security sources also explained that this release, which took place at the same time as dozens of other Palestinian prisoners, was intended to reduce the number of detainees in the Sde Teiman detention camp in the Negev desert.

This vast military base is the main place of detention for Palestinians arrested by the army in the Gaza Strip. Numerous testimonies report torture and ill-treatment. Israel had made a commitment to the High Court to close this prison and transfer all prisoners elsewhere by the end of June. However, according to a report submitted by the state to the court on June 30, 94 Palestinians were still being held there.

The release of Abu Salmiya has angered many Israeli political leaders. It took place without informing the “political echelon,” denounced Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who called it a “grave error.” “The place of this man, under whose responsibility our abductees were murdered and held, is in prison,” he declared.

Prisoners ‘deprived of food’

The army, the prison administration and the Shin Bet are blaming each other for this decision. Abu Salmiya and the other released prisoners were transferred to medical centers in Gaza, such as Khan Yunis, in the south.

“The Israeli occupation arrests everyone, and medical staff have died in Israeli prisons,” said Abu Salmiya, speaking at a press conference in Gaza shortly after his release. “The enemy has demonstrated its cruelty in dealing with prisoners and medical personnel. Hundreds of medical staff have been targeted and are being tortured in occupation prisons.”

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