Gaza Reporter Says Israel Stripped, Blindfolded Journalists During Al-Shifa Raid

An Al Jazeera journalist in northern Gaza who was just freed after Israeli forces beat and detained him for 12 hours has spoken up about his arrest, for whom he was reporting when he and other members of the media were taken by troops.

Israeli forces attacked al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City on Monday, claiming that Hamas militants were hiding in the medical facility. According to journalists and the Gaza Health Ministry, Israeli troops directed missiles and gunfire at part of the hospital being used for specialized surgeries.

Tens of thousands of Palestinians ― including displaced civilians, medical staff and injured patients ― were trapped at the complex during Israel’s attack, according to the ministry. The facility is Gaza’s largest hospital.

Al Jazeera Arabic correspondent Ismail al-Ghoul was covering the attack at the hospital alongside fellow journalists early Monday when Israeli troops stormed the complex, destroying their broadcast equipment, tents and vehicles before arresting them, he said after later being released.

Eyewitnesses, including Palestinian journalist Imad Zaqqout, told Al Jazeera that Israeli forces severely beat al-Ghoul before detaining him with dozens of others within the hospital.

“This targeting serves as an intimidation tactic against journalists to deter them from reporting on the horrific crimes committed by the occupation forces against innocent civilians in Gaza,” the network said in a statement before al-Ghoul’s release.

Recalling his experience, al-Ghoul alleged that journalists at al-Shifa were all detained inside the medical complex, where they were completely stripped, handcuffed, blindfolded and forced to lie on their stomachs for hours.

Israeli soldiers would open fire as a scare tactic if they sensed any movement from the journalists, al-Ghoul alleged, and began taking each person in for interrogation after about 12 hours. Al-Ghoul was able to finally leave the compound by volunteering to help escort out an elderly man being released from inside the hospital, he told Al Jazeera.

According to the Israeli military, troops arrested 200 people in the al-Shifa raid and killed 20 Palestinian fighters.

“We stand against any harassment of journalists anywhere in the world. And certainly we do so in this instance,” U.N. spokesperson Farhan Haq told Al Jazeera correspondent Biesan Abu Kwaik. “Our sympathies go to your colleague as well as to all other journalists who suffered from any violence during the course of this incident.”

Al-Ghoul later posted on X that Israeli forces also released “a number of journalists” detained with him, though the specific status of the journalists is unclear. He also posted a hashtag in Arabic that roughly translates to: “Coverage continues.”

Al-Ghoul’s arrest is not the first time Israeli forces have attacked journalists working for Al Jazeera, a Qatari-owned media network that has credibly covered global news, including the Hamas attack in Israel on Oct. 7 and Israel’s resulting military offensive in Gaza that has lasted more than five months.

“The targeting of Ismail al-Ghoul is part of a series of systematic attacks on Al Jazeera by the occupation authorities, which included the assassination of Shireen Abu Akleh, Samer Abu Daqqa and Hamza al-Dahdouh, the bombing of its office in Gaza, the deliberate targeting of a number of its journalists and their family members, and the arrest and intimidation of its crews,” the network said in a statement.

The Monday incident is also not the first time Israel has targeted Palestinian journalists covering the attacks on the ground in Gaza. The Committee to Protect Journalists has recorded at least 95 journalists and media workers killed while covering the war, 90 of whom were Palestinian. Last month, the Gaza Media Office reported at least 126 Palestinian journalists killed since Oct. 7.

Multiple press freedom groups have called for the release of detained journalists at al-Shifa.

CPJ Program Director Carlos Martínez de la Serna said that he “welcomes the release” of al-Ghoul and some of the other journalists detained by Israeli forces on Monday, “but we remain extremely concerned that they were blocked from covering a major military operation, denying them their press freedom rights.”

“In addition, numerous other journalists remain imprisoned since the Israel-Gaza war began in October,” he continued. “They too should be freed, and their voices should not be silenced.”

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