Palestinian doctor Mohammad Abu Selmeyah, the director of Al Shifa Hospital who was detained by Israeli forces, speaks to the media after his release from an Israeli jail, on Monday.—Reuters
Palestinian doctor Mohammad Abu Selmeyah, the director of Al Shifa Hospital who was detained by Israeli forces, speaks to the media after his release from an Israeli jail, on Monday.—Reuters

• Al Shifa hospital chief says he was tortured in Israeli detention
• Netanyahu acknowledges forces engaged in a ‘difficult fight’ in Shujaiya

GAZA STRIP: Israeli forces struck southern Gaza’s main city on Monday after a rocket barrage claimed by Islamic Jihad, and as shelling and fighting raged on across the besieged Palestinian territory.

A group of Palestinian detainees meanwhile returned to the Gaza Strip, including the director of its biggest hospital who recounted “severe torture” in Israeli custody.

Israel has released Mohammed Abu Salmiya, director of Gaza City’s Al-Shifa hospital, along with dozens of other detainees returned on Monday to Gaza for treatment, according to a hospital source in central Gaza’s Deir al-Balah.

Successive Israeli raids have reduced large parts of Al Shifa, the territory’s largest medical complex, to rubble.

Speaking after his release, Abu Salmiya said he had suffered “severe torture” during his detention since November. “Prisoners are subjected to all kinds of torture,” he told reporters in Khan Yunis. “Detainees were subjected to physical and psychological humiliation” and “several inmates died in interrogation centres and were deprived of food and medicine”, he said.

Islamic Jihad retaliation

The Israeli military said about “20 projectiles were identified crossing from the area of Khan Yunis” in southern Gaza, in a rare salvo after nearly nine months of devastating conflict.

The rockets were aimed at Israeli communities near the Gaza border and were fired in retaliation for Israeli “crimes... against our Palestinian people”, said the Al Quds Brigades, the armed wing of Islamic Jihad which has fought alongside Hamas.

Most launches were intercepted, the Israeli military said, reporting no casualties and saying artillery was “striking the sources of the fire”. Elsewhere in Gaza, witnesses and the civil defence agency reported Israeli air strikes including in the southern Rafah area and the central Nuseirat refugee camp.

Witnesses reported constant Israeli tank fire in Gaza City’s Shujaiya district where battles raged for a fifth day, after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu acknowledged Israeli forces were engaged in a “difficult fight”.

A correspondent reported Israeli helicopters firing on houses in Shujaiya, while Hamas’s armed wing, the Al Qassam Brigades, said it was continuing to fight in Shujaiya and Rafah.

The Israeli military said troops “eliminated numerous terrorists” in raids in Shujaiya, where air strikes also killed “approximately 20” fighters. Israeli forces were also operating in Rafah and in central Gaza, a statement added.

The military also announced the death of a soldier in southern Gaza, bringing its total toll during the ground offensive to 317.

Netanyahu, who recently declared that the “intense phase” of the war was winding down, said on Sunday troops were “operating in Rafah, Shujaiya, everywhere in the Gaza Strip”. “This is a difficult fight that is being waged above ground... and below ground” in tunnels.

Months of on-and-off talks towards a truce and hostage release deal have made little progress, with Hamas saying there was “nothing new” in a revised plan presented by US mediators.

Health risks

According to Abu Salmiya, no charges were ever brought against him. The European hospital in Khan Yunis said the head of its orthopaedic unit, Bassam Miqdad, was also among those freed.

The United Nations and relief agencies have voiced alarm over the dire humanitarian crisis and threat of starvation the war and Israeli siege have brought for Gaza’s 2.4 million people.

Israel’s ground operation in Rafah since early May has led to the closure of a key aid crossing, and a US-built temporary pier meant to facilitate humanitarian shipments was again removed from the Gaza coast over the weekend because of high seas.

In a displacement camp in Gaza’s Deir al-Balah, pharmacist Sami Hamid said skin infections were on the rise, particularly among children, “because of the hot weather and lack of clean water”.

Published in Dawn, July 2nd, 2024

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