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Israel Arrests Gaza Hospital Director and Bombs 300 Targets Amid Truce Delay

Israel’s army has arrested the director of Gaza’s al-Shifa hospital and bombed at least 300 targets from the air, killing dozens of Palestinians, as an agreed four-day truce was delayed until Friday.

Mohammad abu Salmiya and other medics were detained, a colleague said, amid reports that members of the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) had seized them as they were travelling with a World Health Organization evacuation convoy.

“Dr Mohammad abu Salmiya was arrested along with several other senior doctors,” Khalid abu Samra told the AFP news agency, while Gaza’s ministry of health demanded the WHO explain what had happened.

Several hours later the IDF confirmed Abu Salmiya had been arrested and transferred to the Shin Bet domestic security service for further questioning. It said that al-Shifa “under his direct management, served as a Hamas command and control centre” and that Hamas fighters had sought refuge in the hospital.

Abu Salmiya was regularly interviewed as Israeli forces attacked Gaza after 7 October, describing a desperately overcrowded facility housing 650 patients and sheltering another 5,000. He described allegations that al-Shifa sat above a Hamas command centre as untrue.

Al-Shifa, the largest medical facility in Gaza, was surrounded and raided by Israeli forces over a week ago. Israel has repeatedly claimed that Hamas ran a command and control centre from tunnels running near and under the hospital, although so far the evidence presented has fallen short of that.

The IDF took a group of journalists to visit the tunnels on Wednesday, and video reports appeared showing lengthy tunnels reinforced with concrete blocks. A bathroom and an empty tiled room with electric sockets could be seen on the footage, although its purpose could not be discerned from the filmed material.

Daniel Hagari, the IDF’s spokesperson, said on Wednesday evening the footage showed that “Hamas built tunnels underneath hospitals, used them to command their operations”, and accused the group of “using the protected status of the hospitals as a shield”.

Patients and civilians have since been gradually evacuated from al-Shifa including the hospital’s boss on Thursday, a day in which intense fighting continued unabated across Gaza as the planned truce was delayed by nearly 24 hours. Qatar said on Thursday that the truce would start at 7am local time (5am GMT) on Friday.

The Palestinian Wafa news agency reported that dozens had been killed in Israeli bombing raids in Nuseirat and its camp in the central Gaza Strip, and in Jabaliya in the north, which has been the scene of days of heavy fighting on the ground. Among those reported killed in Nuseirat was a photojournalist, Mohammad Moin Ayyash, and his family.

Israel’s air force said in the early morning that it bombed 300 targets over the past 24 hours, while the IDF said ground forces were fighting against Hamas in the northern Gaza Strip using tanks and drones. The military released fresh bodycam footage showing soldiers operating among rubble and destroyed buildings in the Shati quarter of Gaza City.

A second hospital in northern Gaza, the Indonesia hospital, has now been evacuated at the insistence of Israel’s military, according to the Indonesian charity Medical Emergency Rescue Committee (MER-C), which helped fund and build it. Gaza’s health ministry said the evacuation meant that 65 bodies at the facility remained unburied.

Hamas has agreed to exchange at least 50 mostly Israeli hostages it holds, in return for a four-day pause in fighting and the release of 150 Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails. The truce could be extended if more prisoners are released by Hamas, but Israeli leaders insist fighting will eventually restart.

On Thursday, Herzi Halevi, the IDF’s chief of staff, visited brigade commanders inside Gaza and insisted the war would continue. “We are not ending the war. We will continue until we are victorious, going forward and continuing in other Hamas areas,” he said.

Source: Africa News