Israeli military forced journalists and health workers to strip in Gaza hospital raid, eyewitnesses say

Israeli military forced journalists and health workers to strip in Gaza hospital raid, eyewitnesses say

Al Jazeera Arabic reporter Ismail Al-Ghoul said he and his team were detained by Israeli forces at Al-Shifa for 12 hours, stripped and blindfolded, after the IDF besieged the complex on Monday. Al Jazeera

Israeli forces detained Palestinian journalists and health workers, blindfolded them and stripped them down to their underwear in Al-Shifa Hospital, in northern Gaza, according to eyewitness accounts shared with CNN.

Palestinian reporters and hospital staff described scenes of humiliating interrogations where colleagues had been undressed and left outside in the cold, after the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) laid siege to the largest hospital in the enclave in the early hours of Monday.

One man who was detained told CNN Israeli forces released him without his ID or mobile phone.

The Israeli military raided Al-Shifa after it claimed “senior Hamas terrorists” were using the facility to “conduct and promote terrorist activity.” It claims to have detained a senior Hamas operative during the operation.

CNN cannot independently verify the IDF’s statements.

Ismail Al Ghoul, an Al Jazeera journalist, told CNN he and his team were detained for 12 hours, stripped to their underwear and blindfolded throughout – despite the rain and cold.

Another of the team, Ahmad al-Harazin, said that “while we were sitting [there], the [Israeli] army suddenly raided and arrested us. God Almighty kept us safe. And we were released.”

Samer Tarazi, who was also part of Al Ghoul’s team at Al-Shifa, told CNN he had just finished working at 2 a.m. local time on Monday when the Israeli military stormed the complex and detained them.

“We were blindfolded and handcuffed while we were waiting for our release. We were waiting, not knowing where we were, or where we were taken to,” he said.

After his detention, the IDF told Tarazi and his colleagues to flee south, along the coastal Al Rashid Street.

“We were released without getting our IDs or mobile phones back,” he added.

Al Jazeera alleged in a statement Monday that Al Ghoul and his team were detained and “severely beaten” before being taken to an undisclosed location and interrogated.

The IDF told CNN they had no record of detaining Al Ghoul or his colleagues.

CNN also received an account from Dr Marwan Abu Saada, head of surgery at Al-Shifa. Abu Saada was not at the hospital when the Israeli raid began on Monday.

He said on Tuesday that colleagues who had been permitted to leave the hospital reported Israeli troops breaking into most of the hospital buildings.

He said male medical staff were forced to strip and left “for hours in the cold,” an assertion made by other men who have been released from the area.

“They scanned their faces with a camera and took them one by one for humiliating investigation,” he said in the account, shared with CNN by a colleague.

“Many were arrested and were taken to an unknown place, some were forced to leave the hospital and displaced to the south half naked, and others were ordered to go back to the hospital,” added Abu Saada.

“Soldiers assaulted and violated our medical staff and workers in Al-Shifa Hospital, left them without food or water for two days, taking into consideration that this is the month of Ramadan and they are fasting.”

CNN has asked the IDF for its response to the allegations levied by Saada. The IDF has not so far responded.

The IDF said in a statement Thursday that “over 140 terrorists have been eliminated” in the raid. On Wednesday, the IDF added that forces questioned “over 300 suspects” and took at least 160 others to Israeli territory “for further questioning.”

CNN cannot independently verify the IDF’s claims.

CNN has asked the IDF for further details about the people it says it has killed or detained during the raid on Al-Shifa and in the neighborhood.

Israel launched its military offensive in Gaza after the militant group Hamas attacked Israel on October 7, killing at least 1,200 people, including 36 children, and kidnapping more than 250 others.

Israeli attacks on Gaza have killed at least 31,988 Palestinians, and injured another 74,188 people, according to the Ministry of Health in the enclave.

Israel turned Al-Shifa Hospital into a battleground in November, when it carried out what it called a “precise and targeted” raid on the complex.

Doctors were forced to work by candlelight and wrap premature babies in foil to keep them alive.

Dozens of patients died due to a lack of electricity, according to a report released in November.

Health workers have previously told CNN they cannot offer life-saving treatment to Palestinians wounded in the war – including children and infants – because Israel’s bombardment and besiegement of Gazan hospitals has crushed the medical system.

The IDF claims Hamas uses hospitals for its military operations. Hamas denies using hospitals as cover. CNN cannot independently verify either claim.

Targeting hospitals in wartime is prohibited under international law, but those standards change if enemy combatants are using the facility to attack an enemy.

Even then, patients and doctors are protected by the principle of proportionality. A warning must be given, and a time for safe evacuation, before carrying out an attack.

Claims of interrogations, killings and torture

Footage emerged earlier this week showing piles of debris and plumes of smoke filling the area around Al-Shifa, as families ran in terror after a deafening missile strike near the hospital.

Unaccompanied children clambered over slabs of fallen concrete, desperately trying to escape the horror.

At least 3,000 displaced people, patients and staff were trying to seek shelter inside the walls of the facility before the deadly raid, according to the Ministry of Health in Gaza.

Those trying to flee were targeted by Israeli snipers and fire from helicopters, the ministry said on Monday.

Mahmoud Basal, civil defense spokesman in Gaza, said on Thursday that displaced Palestinians from Al-Shifa Hospital recounted “many stories about humiliation and beatings there after they had left and walked long distances.”

He told CNN that Israeli forces had razed and bombed houses in the area, leaving dead and wounded Palestinians on the roads.

Civil Defense workers were still unable to reach the hospital area because of the danger.

It came after Basal alleged that citizens inside the hospital had spoken of interrogations, killing and torture.

The Israeli army was removing wounded people from inside the hospital “even when they cannot walk or move,” he said on Wednesday, adding that these people were reaching the Baptist Hospital three kilometers away “in a very difficult condition.”

He said people there were afraid to speak with journalists and asserted that one of the freelance reporters there – Mahmoud Aliwa – was detained by Israeli troops.

CNN has asked the IDF about the reported detention of Aliwa and the movement of wounded people to Al Ahli Baptist hospital.

Israel’s military campaign in Gaza has been the deadliest war for journalists since 1992, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).

At least 95 reporters had been killed and 16 injured as of March 20, while four were reported missing and 25 arrested, according to CPJ figures.

There have been numerous reported incidents of assaults, threats, cyberattacks, censorship, and killings of family members.

The IDF ordered residents and displaced persons near the sprawling medical complex to travel to what it called a “humanitarian zone” further south. However, those warnings came after the hospital had already come under siege, according to one witness.

CNN has asked the IDF for further details about the people it says it has killed or detained during the raid on Al-Shifa and in the neighborhood.

CNN has previously reported on Palestinian civilians who followed evacuation orders being killed by Israeli strikes, underscoring the reality that evacuation zones and warning alerts from the Israeli military haven’t guaranteed safety for civilians in the densely populated Gaza Strip.

A young woman living near Al-Shifa Hospital posted a series of social media videos on Thursday calling for help, against the ringing noise of loud detonations and gunfire.

“I am sitting trembling and by God, can’t bear it. There is no place, there is really no place to go to. Shelling is everywhere,” Emmy Shaheen wrote in text on an Instagram video.

CNN has geolocated Shaheen’s family home from her previous Instagram videos as immediately to the north-west of Al-Shifa.

The text on the second video read: “One of the most difficult days of my life. We are helpless and there no one to protect us. We are dying, we continue to be dying.”


Israel Hamas Gaza Palestine Al-Shifa Hospital Israel Defense Forces (IDF)

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