Journalist Describes Interrogation at Hamas Headquarters Next to Emergency Room at Gaza’s Al Shifa Hospital
Radjaa Abu Dagga, Gaza correspondent for France’s Libération, told the newspaper‘s readers on Tuesday how Hamas refused his requests to leave Gaza and how he was interrogated by Hamas members from their headquarters inside Gaza’s Al-Shifa hospital, a violation of international rules of war.
Blogger Elder of Ziyon published a translation of his harrowing account on Thursday.
Correspondent Radjaa Abu Dagga for years divided his time between Paris, where his wife and son live, and Gaza, where his parents live and where he works. On 18 June, when he wanted to cross the Rafah border, an officer banned his way and took his passport like all Palestinians trying to cross into Egypt that day.
After four blocked attempts to leave Gaza without explanation over weeks, the Palestinian journalist was summoned by the security services of Hamas on Sunday. ‘I received a call from a private number. They summoned me to Al-Shifa Hospital in the Gaza City center,’ explains Radjaa. He carried with him his two phones, his press card and a small camera.
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A few meters from the emergency room where the injured from bombings are constantly flowing, in the outpatient department, he was received in ‘a small section of the hospital used as administration’ by a band of young fighters. They were all well dressed, which surprised Radjaa, ‘in civilian clothing with a gun under one’s shirt and some had walkie-talkies.’ He was ordered to empty his pockets, removing his shoes and his belt then was taken to a hospital room ‘which served that day as the command office of three people.’
A man begins his interrogation: ‘Who are you? Who do you call? What are you doing?’ ‘I was very surprised by the procedure,’ admits Radjaa, who showed him his press card in response. Questions came. They asked if he speaks Hebrew, he has relations with Ramallah. Young Hamas supporters insistently ask the question: ‘Are you a correspondent for Israel?’ Radjaa repeated that he only works for French media and a chain of Algerian radio.
It was then that the three men delivered this message: ‘This is yours to choose. We are an executive administration. We will carry the message of Qassams. You have to stay at home and give us your papers.’ Stunned to be covered by the Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of Hamas, Radjaa tried to defend himself and especially to understand why such a decision was taken against him. In vain. ‘It is impossible to communicate with these people,’ laments the journalist.
He is not the first to undergo this kind of pressure and combatants in front of him did not hide. ‘They are enraged against the presidency and accused me of collaborating with Mahmoud Abbas,’ he says. Reporters Without Borders confirms that this is not an isolated case. The organization has indeed been alerted by the threats of Hamas against Palestinian and foreign journalists for their professional activities.
Elder of Ziyon said: “There are many journalists that have been hanging around Al Shifa hospital. Very few have mentioned that the terrorist wing of Hamas is even present, let alone set up next to the emergency room. Is it because they are pro-Hamas? Is it Stockholm syndrome? Or is their hate of Israel so deep that anything that supports the IDF’s assertions of Hamas war crimes is considered off limits?”
“But this is the fundamental story of the conflict: Hamas is using the entire population as human shields for their terror, and they deliberately choose hospitals to ensure that either they are not targeted or that any Israeli actions will look barbaric.The sad thing is, judging from many of the reports we have seen, most journalists are complicit in this.”
The Wall Street Journal correspondent Nick Casey posted a photograph to Twitter of Hamas spokesman Mushir Al Masri being interviewed on camera, in front of backdrop showing a destroyed house, but inside of Al Shifa hospital, where Hamas has created an administrative headquarters. The photo has since been removed.
There have been reports of many journalists taking down posts from social media to avoid pressure from the Hamas spokesmen or endure the hateful responses by supporters of Gaza’s war against Israel. The Financial Times’s Jerusalem correspondent John Reed was targeted on Wednesday for noting on Twitter that Hamas was firing from a rocket launch site adjacent to Al Shifa, even as the wounded were being brought in for treatment. Reed, a veteran reporter for the FT in Poland and South Africa, let his post stand.