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Adnan Al-Bursh: Leading Gaza surgeon dies in Israeli prison


A prominent Gaza surgeon has died in an Israeli prison after being held for more than four months, according to Palestinian prisoner groups, who denounced his death as part of “systematic targeting” of health workers.

Dr. Adnan Al-Bursh, head of the orthopedic department at Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City, was declared dead by Israeli prison authorities at Ofer prison in the occupied West Bank on April 19, according to a joint statement Thursday from the Society of Palestinian Prisoners. and the Inmate Affairs Commission.

Al-Bursh was arrested along with 10 other medical workers in December during the Israeli military ground invasion of the Jabalya refugee camp, CNN previously reported. He was taken while treating patients at Al-Awda Hospital, the statement said.

His body has not yet been made public by Israeli authorities.

Prisoners’ associations blamed his death on Israel, saying it was part of a “systematic targeting process against doctors and the health system in Gaza,” according to the statement.

CNN has contacted the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) for comment.

The 50-year-old’s death was “heartbreaking news for everyone, for his family, the medical staff of Al-Shifa Hospital and for Dr Adnan’s patients”, hospital director said Al-Shifa, Dr. Marwan Abu Saada. , told CNN.

“This is the last thing we expected, and it is difficult for the human soul to bear this news,” he said. “Dr. Adnan loved life, was cheerful and was loved by everyone.

Al-Bursh’s nephew, Mohammad Al-Bursh, told CNN in a telephone interview that he learned of his uncle’s death around 1 p.m. Thursday from the Palestinian Prisoners Society.

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

The youngest of nine siblings, Dr. Al-Bursh was not only a doctor, he was also a sports advisor for the Palestinian national team, his nephew said.

He told CNN that his uncle worked non-stop during the height of the war in Gaza, taking only an hour in the morning to jog and play sports by the beach.

Ministry of Health in Gaza

Palestinian surgeon Al-Bursh (left) is pictured treating an injured Palestinian child in a Gaza hospital.

“From October 10, 2023, he spent every moment he had at Al-Shifa Hospital. He didn’t even see his wife again until probably two weeks later,” Mohammed said.

During the first Israeli incursion into Al-Shifa hospital, Mohammad told CNN that Israeli soldiers told medical staff, including Dr. Al-Bursh, that they could either leave the hospital and go south or be arrested.

He followed orders and traveled south temporarily, eventually returning to northern Gaza when he deemed the roads safe, Mohammad said. Dr. Al-Bursh ended up moving from one hospital to another in Gaza, each still a victim of Israeli incursions.

According to Mohammad, Dr Al-Bursh had the option of fleeing and taking refuge in shelters in Jabalya, but he was determined to continue working. Until he was arrested by Israeli soldiers on December 14 last year.

Mohammad said he tried to get information about his uncle’s arrest from authorities and lawyers, but was kept in the dark.

Mohammad Al-Bursh

Al-Bursh is pictured with his two children. Colleagues told CNN the doctor “loved life.”

Allegations of physical and psychological violence

Like Mohammad, Abu Saada said he had already asked Israeli authorities about Al-Bursh’s detention but “had not received any news.” Abu Saada learned that one of Al-Bursh’s fellow detainees – who had since been released – had said the surgeon had been tortured and killed.

CNN cannot independently verify the claim that Al-Bursh was tortured in custody. However, testimonies from dozens of Palestinians released by Israel in recent months have documented widespread use of physical and psychological abuse against those detained by Israel during the Gaza war.

The Israeli military has previously said it treats all detainees in accordance with international law.

An unpublished report compiled by the United Nations and obtained by CNN describes beatings, sleep deprivation, sexual abuse and threats of sexual violence against men and women detained by the Israeli military.

Earlier Thursday, Israel released dozens of detainees from Gaza through the Kerem Shalom crossing in southern Israel.

The release included the return of the body of Ismail Khadr, a Palestinian from Gaza who also recently died in Israeli custody, the prisoners’ associations said in a joint statement. The total number of Palestinian detainees who have died in Israeli custody since October 7 stands at 18, the statement said.

Israel launched its military offensive in Gaza following attacks by Hamas on October 7, in which militants killed more than 1,200 people in southern Israel and took more than 200 people hostage. Israel’s military response has since triggered a humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza that has inflamed global public opinion.

The seven-month bombing of Gaza has killed more than 34,600 people, according to the Gaza Health Ministry. Half of Gaza’s 2.2 million people are on the brink of starvation and a man-made famine is imminent, according to a scale used by United Nations agencies. Concerns are also heightened over a planned Israeli military operation in Rafah in southern Gaza, sparking new calls for a ceasefire.

Israel’s actions in and around Gaza’s hospitals have come under heavy criticism, as medical groups and NGOs warn that the territory’s health system is on the verge of collapse.

Israel has defended its military raids on medical facilities in Gaza, alleging that Hamas fighters were using the hospitals to carry out military activities through a network of underground tunnels. Hamas and medical staff at various hospitals in Gaza deny the allegations, and Israel is under significant international pressure to prove its claims.

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