Al-Jazeera Arabic's Ismail Al-Ghoul reports early Monday in front of Al-Shifa hospital in Gaza City shortly before he and other journalists were reported to be taken by Israeli soldiers. (Screenshot: Al-Jazeera)

Witnesses: IDF assaulted, detained Al-Jazeera journalist in hospital raid

Editor’s note: Journalist Ismail Al-Ghoul was released by Israeli forces on Monday night after being held for almost 12 hours. In an interview with Al-Jazeera, Al-Ghoul recounted how he and several other journalists were assaulted by IDF soldiers, whom he said destroyed the journalists’ tent and damaged their equipment and press vehicles. Al-Ghoul said the journalists were ordered to strip off their clothes in the cold weather, and were kept blindfolded and handcuffed in a room at Al-Shifa hospital.  Although Al-Ghoul stated that most of Al-Jazeera’s crew was released, he could not confirm the release of every member, as their mobile phones, laptops, and equipment were destroyed by Israeli forces. The release of the journalists followed earlier U.S. State Department inquiries about his detention and calls by organizations including CPJ and Al-Jazeera.

“CPJ welcomes the release of Al-Jazeera journalist Ismail Al-Ghoul and some of the other journalists assaulted and detained by Israel on Monday, but we remain extremely concerned that they were blocked from covering a major military operation, denying them their press freedom rights,” said CPJ Program Director Carlos Martínez de la Serna. “In addition, numerous other journalists remain imprisoned since the Israel-Gaza war began in October. They too should be freed, and their voices should not be silenced.”

Beirut, March 18, 2024 — The Committee to Protect Journalists is alarmed by reports that Israeli soldiers assaulted Al-Jazeera Arabic reporter Ismail Al-Ghoul, detained him and other journalists at Al-Shifa hospital in Gaza City, and calls for their immediate release.

On Monday, Israel Defense Forces  soldiers assaulted Al-Jazeera Arabic reporter Ismail Al-Ghoul as he reported on a new Israeli offensive on the hospital, and then took Al-Ghoul and other journalists to an undisclosed location, according to Al-Jazeera, and multiple news reports.

The reports said that Israeli forces raided the hospital at dawn, detaining at least 80 people overall. The IDF said it has taken control of Al-Shifa hospital, calling the action an operation to “thwart terrorist activity” following “concrete intelligence” that “senior Hamas terrorists” had “regrouped” inside the hospital.

Thousands of Palestinians displaced by the war have sought shelter in the hospital complex.

The Qatar-based Al-Jazeera TV said in its live coverage that it has been trying to contact Al-Ghoul without success since the morning, as telecommunications were down in northern Gaza. It reported that Al-Ghoul was assaulted and forced to strip naked before being taken by IDF soldiers to an unknown location.

Al-Jazeera TV talked to other journalists present at Al-Shifa hospital who said they were surrounded by Israeli fire and tanks at the hospital, and that other journalists and media workers were also arrested with Al-Ghoul. CPJ wasn’t immediately able to verify the names and work of these journalists.

Al-Jazeera also said that Israeli soldiers destroyed the broadcast vehicles the journalists were using to report in front of Al-Shifa hospital.

“We’re deeply alarmed and outraged by reports of the assault on Al-Jazeera reporter Ismail Al-Ghoul from Al-Shifa hospital and other journalists while doing their jobs reporting on the Israeli offensive on the hospital,” said CPJ Program Director Carlos Martinez de la Serna. “The IDF should immediately release Al-Ghoul and other detained Palestinian journalists and take steps to protect the members of the media covering this war.”

Al-Jazeera Media Network called in a statement for “the immediate release of Al-Ghoul and his colleagues,” regarding their arrest as a “new intimidation against journalists to prevent them from reporting on Israeli army crimes in Gaza.”

The last reports by Al-Ghoul were the night and the morning before his arrest, when he reported on the aid that arrived in Gaza City and transmitted a live report from outside Al-Shifa hospital hours before the IDF raid.

Journalists have been working from the vicinity of the hospital since the start of the war, while enduring electricity and telecommunications blackouts.

Since Hamas’ deadly raid on Israel on October 7, CPJ has documented 95 journalists and media workers killed while covering the war, including the killing by Israeli drone strikes of Al-Jazeera’s Samer Abu Daqqa on December 15, Hamza Al Dahdouh and Mustafa Thuraya on January 7, and a drone attack that seriously injured Al-Jazeera reporter Ismail Abu Omar. CPJ has called for independent investigations into the attacks.  CPJ did not receive a response to its email to the IDF’s North America Desk asking for comment on the reports about the beating and arrests of journalists at the hospital complex.