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Jerusalem: Israel released the head of Gaza’s largest hospital, who had been held for more than seven months, among dozens of Palestinian prisoners returned to the besieged territory for treatment on Monday.

His release was confirmed on social media by Israel’s Minister of National Security, Itamar Ben Gvir, and a medical source inside the Gaza Strip.

Al-Shifa director Mohammed Abu Salmiya was detained in November.

The hospital where he worked has been largely reduced to rubble in successive raids since Israel launched its assault on Gaza following Hamas’ October 7 attacks on southern Israel.

Salmiya and the other freed detainees crossed back into Gaza from Israel, just east of Khan Younis, said a medical source at Al-Aqsa Hospital in Deir El-Balah.

Five detainees were admitted to Al-Aqsa hospital and the others were sent to hospitals in Khan Younis, the source added.

An AFP correspondent in Deir El-Balah saw some detainees being emotionally reunited with their families.

The Israeli military said it was “verifying” reports of the release of prisoners.

However, National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir confirmed the release when he posted on X, formerly Twitter, that Salmiya’s release “with dozens of other terrorists is a security abandonment”.

Israel has accused Hamas of using hospitals in the Gaza Strip as cover for military operations and infrastructure.

The militant group, which has ruled the territory since 2007, denies the allegations.

In May, Palestinian human rights groups said a senior Al-Shifa surgeon died in an Israeli prison after being detained. The Israeli military said it did not know the death.

The war began with the Hamas attack on October 7, which killed 1,195 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on Israeli figures.

Israel’s retaliatory offensive has killed at least 37,877 people, also mostly civilians, according to figures from the Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry.

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