Ailing Palestinian prisoner dies due to systemic abuse and neglect by Israeli authorities

Prisoner Sami al-Amour suffered from congenital heart disease since birth. He was in the 14th year of his 19-year prison term, during which his health gradually deteriorated leading to his death from years of abuse and medical negligence by the Israeli authorities

November 20, 2021 by Peoples Dispatch
The mother of Palestinian prisoner Sami Al-Amour mourns for her son who died of medical negligence in Israeli custody on November 18, 2021. (Photo: Ashraf Amra/ApaImages/Middle East Monitor)

A Palestinian prisoner from Gaza died in Israeli custody due to deliberate medical negligence, multiple news reports stated on Thursday, November 19, quoting the Palestinian prisoners’ society (PPS). Sami al-Amour, from the city of Deir al-Balah in besieged Gaza, died on Thursday in his prison cell as a result of “systematic intentional medical negligence” following severe deterioration in his health, the PPS said in a statement. Al-Amour was reportedly rushed to the Israeli Soroka medical center on Wednesday night following a decline in his health, where he was pronounced dead by physicians.

39-year-old Al-Amour suffered from congenital heart disease since birth. He was recently shifted from the Nafha prison to the Asqalan prison by the Israeli prison authorities due to his condition. He was taken to the Soroka medical center a few days ago to undergo two surgeries related to his heart condition. One of the surgeries reportedly failed and he was again taken to the hospital on Tuesday for additional heart surgery, a day before being declared dead. The PPS said that it holds the Israeli occupation authorities fully and solely responsible for the prisoner’s death due medical neglect and mistreatment because of the harsh and inhumane living conditions in which Palestinians are imprisoned. 

The PPS added that Israeli policies have led to the deaths of several other prisoners in the past, including Hussein Masalma and cancer-stricken prisoner Kamal Abu Wa‘er. PPS spokesperson Amjad al-Najjar told Al Jazeera that al-Amour’s health had been on the decline for the last four months, adding that “he did not undergo the operation he was supposed to have a long time ago for his condition.” Amina al-Taweel of the Palestinian Prisoners Center for Studies in a statement to Al Jazeera said that, “he was not taken for regular medical checkups and not given appropriate treatment during his years in detention. His operation was postponed until his health condition was desperate and there was no longer a possibility of treating him.” 

Towards the end, al-Amour was reportedly not even able to walk or hold a cup in his hand. He was found lying unconscious in his prison cell before being taken to the hospital, as per al-Najjar, who also said that the Israeli authorities made him undergo the surgery without informing his family and no family member was present while it was performed.

Al-Amour was arrested in 2008 and sentenced to 19 years in prison. During his imprisonment, the Israeli authorities reportedly imposed severe restrictions on family visits. His father was only able to visit him thrice in the last 14 years and his mother only a handful of times. According to his sister, the family was last able to speak to him before he was taken to the hospital for surgery. He was reportedly handcuffed then and sitting in a wheelchair. His fiancé of 14 years, who remained engaged to him during his incarceration, told local media that the family only came to know about his death through news outlets. 

As per estimates, the number of Palestinians who have died in Israeli custody since 1967 now stands at 227, with 72 of them dying due to medical negligence. Israel also continues to withhold the bodies of seven such prisoners following their death in custody in clear violation of international law which states that the families have the right to hold a funeral and bury their loved ones as per their religious customs. Currently, there are approximately 550 Palestinian prisoners in Israel, both male and female, who are suffering from a range of medical conditions, like cancer, heart disease and diabetes. In total, there are around 4,650 Palestinians currently being held in Israeli prisons and detention centers, including 34 women and 200 children. Among them, 520 are administrative detainees who are being held without charge or trial for indefinite periods.