Tue 9-July-2024

Release of Dr. Abu Salmiya exposes Israeli lies about Gaza hospitals

Thursday 4-July-2024


After seven months of arbitrary detention, the release of Dr. Mohammed Abu Salmiya, Director of Al-Shifa Medical Complex, by Israeli occupation forces without any charges shatters the mountain of lies that Israeli propaganda has long promoted about him and hospitals in Gaza.

Dr. Abu Salmiya was released alongside 50 other detainees from Gaza on Monday via the Kissufim crossing east of Deir al-Balah in central Gaza. This release brings back to light the crimes committed by occupation forces in Al-Shifa Medical Complex. These forces had previously claimed the hospital was a key center for Hamas, destroying most of its buildings through repeated incursions and committing horrific massacres inside before withdrawing, without ever providing any serious evidence to support their claims.

The collapse of the Israeli narrative
As videos of Dr. Abu Salmiya’s release alongside his comrades spread, questions arose among observers and activists: Why did Israel detain Abu Salmiya and his colleagues? Why did it burn down Al-Shifa Medical Complex and kill patients there?

Mads Gilbert, former head of the Norwegian medical team to Gaza, said, “We salute the resilience of the detained doctors, including Abu Salmiya and the others who should not have been detained in the first place amid the larger number of detainees from Gaza.” Speaking to Al Araby TV from Oslo, he added, “Despite the torture Abu Salmiya faced, he promised to rebuild Al-Shifa Medical Complex and Gaza’s health system.”

Gilbert confirmed that after Abu Salmiya’s release without charges, “the majority of Norwegians now see through the Israeli lies and want to boycott Israel and impose sanctions on it. Every week, there are widespread demonstrations, especially from medical workers, against the violations faced by medical teams in Gaza.”

He continued, “What we see today is further division in Israel, with Netanyahu’s government losing strength, which is significant. Additionally, the release of Abu Salmiya once again confirms that there is no evidence that hospitals in Gaza were used as military centers, showing the Israeli narrative about hospitals to be a huge lie.”

Israeli lies
Bloggers noted that the biggest proof of Israeli lies and brutality towards medical staff and facilities is the release of Dr. Mohammed Abu Salmiya and his colleagues after more than seven months of detention, during which they could not prove any of their claims despite all the psychological and physical torture exerted.

Others added that this means Israel destroyed the hospital and committed horrific massacres, turning it into mass graves without any justification. Therefore, Israel must be held accountable for its crimes and added to its record of offenses against the healthcare sector in Gaza.

Arbitrary detention
In his first statements after his release, Dr. Mohammed Abu Salmiya confirmed that the occupation did not present any charges against him, indicating that his detention was political.

He mentioned that he was detained on November 22, 2023, while passing through the Netzarim corridor, which the occupation claimed to be a safe passage after the army had stayed for 13 days in Al-Shifa Medical Complex. He added, “During that time, I was in contact with the coordinator and officers. Afterwards, we left in a UN convoy under their eyes to transport patients, but the occupation betrayed us and detained me at Netzarim without charging me.”

He reported that he appeared in court three or four times, and the judge told him, “There are no charges against you, and you are being held until further notice,” adding that his detention was purely political.

Abu Salmiya also mentioned that detainees were subjected to psychological and physical torture, as well as starvation. For two months, the detainees’ daily food ration was just one loaf of bread. He added that the wounded and sick did not receive any medical care, and Israeli doctors participated in beating and torturing them, contrary to all humanitarian norms and medical conventions.

Israeli incitement
The release of Dr. Abu Salmiya sparked anger among the occupation, with extremist National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir calling for the dismissal of the Shin Bet chief, holding him responsible for the release.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered an investigation into Abu Salmiya’s release, claiming he was unaware of the decision, calling it a “grave mistake and a moral failure.” War Minister Yoav Gallant also denied any knowledge of the decision.

The Shin Bet accused Itamar Ben-Gvir of being responsible for the release of the Gazan detainees, pointing out a shortage of detention places, leading to the release of less dangerous detainees.

Benny Gantz commented, “This government does not deserve to manage the war and should resign. Whoever decided to release Abu Salmiya should be dismissed immediately.” Communications Minister Shlomo Karhi and Israel Beiteinu leader Avigdor Lieberman also lashed out at the decision to release the Al-Shifa Hospital Director.

Lawyer and human rights activist Khaled Mahajna noted, “Today’s events in Gaza concerning the release of detainees are a farce because the release must be ordered by an Israeli court. Therefore, the detainees could not have been released without a clear decision from the investigation unit, meaning the Israeli intelligence to the regional officer. Accordingly, the Palestinian detainees were released.”

Speaking to Al Araby TV, he added, “Everyone in Israel is trying to shirk responsibility for the release of detainees, primarily Abu Salmiya, even though the release was legal.”

Human rights warning
The Euro-Med Human Rights Monitor expressed concern for the safety of Al-Shifa Hospital Director after his release, emphasizing that Israeli incitement against Dr. Abu Salmiya raises serious concerns about his life. It warned of the possibility of re-arresting or targeting and killing him directly due to the incitement campaign launched by senior Israeli officials against his release.

The human rights monitor stated, “The release of Dr. Abu Salmiya today along with several medical staff without any charges adds another proof that the pretexts used by the army to storm and besiege Al-Shifa Medical Complex and destroy it were baseless.”

It added, “This confirms that the real aim of storming Al-Shifa and arresting its doctors and officials was to destroy one of Gaza’s key healthcare components, depriving Palestinians of any chance for treatment, survival, or even shelter.”

The Euro-Med held “Israel fully responsible for the life of Dr. Abu Salmiya,” confirming that “any harm to his freedom and personal safety or exposure to any danger is the responsibility of the Israeli authorities who are waging a wide political and media campaign against him.”

Notably, Dr. Mohammed Abu Salmiya appeared resilient and steadfast after his release, emphasizing that he would work to rebuild Al-Shifa Medical Complex better than it was before.

Who is Dr. Abu Salmiya?
Dr. Mohammed Abu Salmiya is a Palestinian pediatrician born in 1973 in Al-Shati refugee camp west of Gaza City. He became the medical director of Al-Nasr Children’s Hospital in Gaza City in 2007, then took over the management of Al-Rantisi Children’s Hospital in the same city in 2015, and later became the director of Al-Shifa Hospital in 2019.

He chaired pediatric conferences held in Gaza and participated in medical conferences outside the Strip, the latest being a scientific conference that brought together the health ministries of Gaza and the West Bank in Cairo in 2023, sponsored by the WHO Regional Office for the Eastern Mediterranean.

Dr. Abu Salmiya worked on developing Al-Shifa Hospital by renovating old buildings, rehabilitating them, and bringing in modern medical equipment funded by international and local institutions.

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