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Released Gaza Hospital Director Says He Was Tortured in Israeli Detention

Muhammad Abu Salmiya said he and others experienced torture, psychological humiliation and severe undernourishment.

Al-Shifa Hospital Director Mohammed Abu Salmiya who was detained by Israeli forces since November, is welcomed by relatives after his release alongside other detainees, at Nasser Hospital in Khan Yunis in Gaza, Palestine, on July 1, 2024.

The director of Gaza’s main hospital said at a press conference on Monday that he was tortured while being held without charges for the last seven months at an Israeli detention center.

Muhammad Abu Salmiya, director of the Al-Shifa hospital, once Gaza’s main medical center, made the claims after he and 54 other Palestinian detainees were released and arrived back to the Gaza Strip.

Israeli forces had raided the hospital in November and alleged that Abu Salmiya was involved in making it a Hamas command center. They later destroyed the hospital.

Abu Salmiya said detention guards broke his finger and beat him to the point that his head bled — and that he wasn’t the only one.

“Our detainees have been subjected to all kinds of torture behind bars,” Abu Salmiya said. “There was almost daily torture.”

There was “daily physical and psychological humiliation,” he added.

He also said that they were severely underfed, surviving on nothing more than a loaf of bread per day. He said that all of the detainees had lost at least 30 kilograms (66 pounds).

Israeli forces seized Abu Salmiya from a United Nations convoy on November 22. They took him to court three times while in detainment but brought no charges and allowed him no lawyer, Abu Salmiya said.

His detention in November followed an Israeli siege of Al-Shifa hospital, which Israeli officials said had become a Hamas control center. Though weapons were found at the hospital, an investigation by The Washington Post in December showed that the evidence fell short of revealing a command center, and that key claims the Israelis had made to justify the siege turned out to be incorrect.

Israeli forces attacked the hospital again in late March, killing hundreds and leaving the facility mostly destroyed. Several mass graves were discovered near the hospital site in the weeks that followed.

Israel has detained thousands of Palestinians since the war started, leading to “intolerable overcrowding” of its facilities, as Haaretz reported in February. Many detainees are held without charges in what is called “administrative detention.”

At least 40 Palestinians have died in Israeli detention during the war, according to Addameer, a Palestinian watchdog group. Salmiya said Monday that some had been killed in interrogation cells, Al Jazeera reported.

At least one other doctor was among those released on Monday: Bassam Miqdad, head of the orthopedic unit at Gaza European hospital in Khan Younis.

In April, Adnan Ahmad Albursh, a 50-year-old Palestinian surgeon, died in Israeli detention, according to Palestinian officials and rights groups. He had been the head of orthopedics at Al-Shifa hospital. Overall, hundreds of healthcare workers have been killed during the war.

Israeli officials and political figures from various parties denounced the release of the 55 detainees, which was reportedly done to make space in the overcrowded detention centers.

Itamar Ben-Gvir, a far-right minister in charge of Israel’s police and prison service, called the release of the detainees a case of “security negligence” and blamed another ministry. Benny Gantz, an opposition figure who recently resigned from the war cabinet, said whoever released the detainees should be fired and that government offices should be made available to “free up space and budget for prisoners,” according to Al Jazeera.

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