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Chaos and confusion: After Shifa hospital director released without being charged, Israeli leaders trade blame

Ben Gvir blasts DM Gallant and Shin Bet head over decision to release hospital director

Dr. Muhammad Abu Salamiya, director of the Shifa Hospital in Gaza, after being released from prison (Photo: Social media)

The director of the Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza, where several Israeli hostages were taken on Oct. 7 after being captured by Hamas terrorists, was released from an Israeli prison on Monday morning without charges. 

Dr. Muhammad Abu Salamiya was released along with 54 other prisoners on Monday morning. He was arrested by IDF troops in November on suspicion that the hospital was being used by Hamas as an operations center with Abu Salamiya’s knowledge. 

Videos on Palestinian media showed Abu Salamiya being greeted as he returned to Gaza. 

Following the announcement of Abu Salamiya’s release from prison without charges, coalition ministers and leaders immediately began protesting the release and attempting to assign blame for the decision. 

Israeli National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir, whose ministry has responsibility for the Israel Prison Service (IPS), blamed Defense Minister Yoav Gallant and Shin Bet head Ronen Bar for the hospital director's release, calling it “security recklessness”. 

“It’s time the prime minister stops Gallant and the Shin Bet chief from carrying out independent policies contradicting the positions of the cabinet,” Ben Gvir wrote on 𝕏. 

Gallant responded by noting that his office has no oversight over prisoner releases. 

“The procedure for incarcerating security prisoners and their release is under the Shin Bet and the Israel Prison Service, and is not subject to the approval of the defense minister,” Gallant’s office stated. 

Shin Bet responded to Ben Gvir's accusations by noting it had been warned against the lack of adequate prison facilities to hold terror prisoners for some time.

“For about a year now, the Israel Security Agency has been warning in every possible forum about the prison shortage and the obligation to increase the number of places of detention,” Shin Bet responded.

The agency also directly attacked Ben Gvir, noting that his office has responsibility for the IPS.

Shin Bet also noted that requests for an increase in the number of prison cells “were forwarded to all the relevant parties, chief among them the national security minister, which is responsible for this.”

The security agency said the requests “went unaddressed, and in practice, the number of did not increase as needed” and that Abu Salamiya “met all the requirements [for early release] regarding the level of danger he poses,” but said it would investigate the release. 

The IPS protested the claim that it approved the release, publishing an image of the release document, which was signed by an IDF reserve brigadier-general. 

On Monday afternoon, a senior security official told N12 news that Ben Gvir’s office was partially responsible, because when a high level prisoner is about to be released there is typically an inter-organizational discussion involving the IPS, Shin Bet and the IDF.

The security source told N12 the discussion did not take place because the IPS did not alert Shin Bet because of a lack of cooperation between the three groups, stemming from disputes between Ben Gvir and Shin Bet over prisoner conditions.

Former War Cabinet Minister Benny Gantz made a statement slamming the government. 

“A government that frees those who sheltered the murderers of October 7 and helped to hide our hostages made a moral and ethical operational error and thus is not fit to lead our existential war and needs to go home,” Gantz said, adding: “Whoever made the decision lacked judgment and should be dismissed today.” 

Gantz also called for new elections. 

Opposition Leader Yair Lapid also criticized the decision, saying, “This is what moral and functional disintegration looks like.” 

“The news this morning and the chaos in the government regarding the release of the director of Shifa Hospital is a direct continuation of the recklessness and dysfunction of the Israeli government which is causing damage to the security of Israel’s citizens,” Lapid added. 

Yair Golan, head of the newly-created party, “The Democrats,” also slammed the government over the decision to free Abu Salamiya. 

“A government that does not know how to conduct a war, that releases prisoners without any exchange when 120 hostages are still being held in Gaza, is a government that needs to come to an end immediately,” Golan said.  

However, ministers and opposition leaders were not the only ones who blasted the decision to release Abu Salamiya from prison.

Avi Marciano, the father of IDF soldier Noa Marciano, who was allegedly murdered at Shifa Hospital, accused the government of abandoning his daughter yet another time.

“Noa was abandoned before October 7, in that she wasn’t listened to. She was abandoned on October 7, when no one came to save her. She was abandoned afterwards when not enough was done to bring her home alive,” he wrote.

“And now seven months after we buried her, Israel decides to release the man indirectly responsible for her murder. I’m sorry, my girl, that even now you are being abandoned.”

The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.

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