People flee as smoke rises above the Al-Shifa hospital compound and buildings in its vicinity during Israeli bombardment in Gaza City on March 21, 2024. CPJ called on Israeli authorities to immediately and unconditionally release the journalists arrested at Al-Shifa hospital this week. (Photo: AFP)

CPJ calls for Israel to release journalists detained during Al-Shifa hospital raid

Beirut, March 22, 2024—The Committee to Protect Journalists calls on Israeli authorities to immediately and unconditionally release the journalists arrested at Al-Shifa hospital in Gaza City this week. 

On Monday, March 18, Israel Defense Forces (IDF) launched a new offensive on the Al-Shifa hospital complex, arresting scores of Palestinians. An unspecified number of journalists, including Mahmoud Elewa, a freelance correspondent for Al-Jazeera TV, and Mohamad Arab, a freelance journalist with Al-Araby TV, were among those held, according to multiple news reports. CPJ was unable to confirm further details about other journalists arrested in the raid.

Arab and Elewa were among the first to report on the hospital raid and the arrest of Al-Jazeera reporter Ismail Al-Ghoul on Monday. Al-Ghoul was released after about 12 hours in Israeli custody.

Telecommunications blackouts have hindered communication with journalists in the area and the outlets were only able to confirm Arab and Elewa’s arrests on Wednesday.

“The Israel Defense Forces need to be fully transparent about journalists who have been detained and refrain from any attempts to block the work of journalists at Al-Shifa hospital and all of Gaza,” said Carlos Martinez de la Serna, CPJ’s program director, in New York. “CPJ is gravely concerned by these arrests and calls on the IDF to immediately release those held  and provide an explanation for their arrests.”

Thousands of Palestinians displaced by the war have sought shelter in the hospital complex and journalists have been working there since the early days of the war.

CPJ’s email to the IDF’s North America Desk inquiring about the journalists’ whereabouts and the reasons for their arrests did not immediately receive a response.

The Israeli Army said it had killed “over 140 terrorists” in ongoing fighting at al-Shifa and arrested 600 people, according to newsreports. Several reports said that the dead included patients, medical staff, and displaced Palestinian civilians. IDF spokesperson Daniel Hagari said in an operational update from the hospital complex on Wednesday that “…no civilians, doctors, medic teams, none have been hurt. Only the terrorists.”