5 May, 2024


Heroic’ Palestinian surgeon dies in Israeli prison after months in detention


Israel yet to release Adnan Al-Bursh’s body two weeks after his death

A senior Palestinian doctor has died inside an Israeli prison after being held in detention for more than four months, a Palestinian prisoners’ association said.

Adnan Al-Bursh was the head of orthopedics at Al Shifa Hospital – Gaza‘s largest medical facility.

He was arrested along with 10 other medical workers by Israeli forces while treating patients at Al-Awada Hospital in north Gaza, the part of the Strip which Israel‘s incessant missile strikes have completely flattened.

The Palestinian Prisoners’ Society called his death an “assassination”, saying it was part of “a systematic targeting process against physicians and the health care system in Gaza”.

Al-Bursh’s body has not yet been released by Israeli authorities.

An Israeli military spokesperson said that the prison service had declared Al-Bursh dead on 19 April after being detained for national security reasons in Ofer prison. The spokesperson did not comment on the cause of death.

The late surgeon’s nephew Mohammad Al-Bursh said he found out about the death of his uncle at around 1pm (local time) on Thursday from the prisoners’ association.

“I didn’t know how to tell his wife and my father. News like this is hard to keep in… We are shocked, more than anyone can imagine. We are in pain,” he told CNN.

The late surgeon’s colleagues described him as “compassionate” and “heroic”. Suhail Matar called his colleague “the safety valve” for every orthopaedic department in all of Gaza’s hospitals.

“It is rare that you meet a person like him in your life, because this doctor worked all his life with dedication and used to make tremendous efforts at the expense of himself,” Dr Matar told BBC Arabic.

Director of Al-Shifa Hospital, Marwan Abu Saada, said the news of Al-Bursh’s death was “difficult for the human soul to bear”.

Medical groups, including the World Health Organization, have called for a halt to attacks on Gaza healthcare workers, with more than 200 killed so far in the Gaza conflict, according to an estimate from Insecurity Insight, a research group that collects and analyses data on attacks on aid workers around the world.

The Palestinian health ministry said Al-Bursh was among the 496 medical workers killed by Israel since 7 October. It added that 1,500 others had been wounded while 309 had been arrested.

Israel has accused Hamas of using hospitals for military purposes and claimed its operations against them have been justified by the presence of fighters. Hamas and medical staff deny the allegations.

More than 34,600 Palestinians have been killed in Israel’s months-long assault on the Gaza Strip. The war began when Hamas militants in their October attack, killed 1,200 people and abducted 253 others, of whom 133 are believed to remain in captivity in Gaza.

Alisha Rahaman Sarkar is a news reporter with The Independent, largely covering Asia with a focus on human rights, gender, politics and minorities. She has previously worked as the India correspondent with Sputnik News and as a multimedia journalist with the New Indian Express. In the past, she has also written for websites such as Newslaundry, Firstpost and India Today


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