Director of Al-Shifa hospital remains detained by Israeli forces, WHO says

The director of the Al-Shifa hospital in northern Gaza remains detained along with three other health workers, the World Health Organization said in a statement.

During a “high risk” WHO-UN joint mission on November 22 to evacuate 151 patients from the hospital to the south of Gaza, Israeli forces detained three medical personnel from the Palestine Red Crescent Society and three from the Ministry of Health, according to the statement released Friday.

The WHO said that two had subsequently been released but that they had received no information about the well-being of the four remaining health staff, including the director of Al-Shifa hospital, Dr. Muhammad Abu Salamiya.

 “WHO calls for their legal and human rights to be fully observed during their detention,” the statement said.

The Israel Defense Forces said Thursday that Abu Salmiya had been detained and handed over to the Israel Security Agency, or Shin Bet, “following evidence showing that the Shifa Hospital, under his direct management, served as a Hamas command and control center. “

“When we saw him, we decided to take him to ask why there was so much terrorist activity at his hospital, both above ground and below ground,” IDF international spokesperson Lt. Col. Richard Hecht said Thursday in response to a CNN question about the doctor’s arrest.

Some background: Israel has long said Hamas bunkers and tunnels under hospitals for military activity but has provided only limited evidence. The IDF brought some Israeli reporters to see tunnels and what appeared to be an underground room under Al-Shifa this week. CNN has not been into the alleged underground system.

On Saturday the IDF referred a question about Abu Salmiya to the Shin Bet, which did not reply immediately.

The WHO estimates that about 100 patients and health workers remain at Al-Shifa hospital, but the exact number is difficult to determine, according to the statement.