Israeli forces tortured a surgeon to death, the latest in Israel’s targeting of Gaza’s health workers

The killing of another surgeon in Israeli custody highlights the ongoing targeting of health workers amid the war on Gaza

May 02, 2024 by Ana Vračar
Dr. Adnan Al-Bursh

Gaza orthopedic surgeon Adnan Al-Bursh was killed while being detained by the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF), according to the Palestinian Prisoners’ Affairs Commission and the Palestinian Prisoners’ Society. His death marks a disturbing increase in fatalities among health workers in Palestine, with the toll nearing 500 since October 7, 2023.

Al-Bursh, who served as the head of orthopedic surgery at Al-Shifa Hospital, was one of the health workers who provided live updates directly from the hospital despite being under siege by Israeli armed forces. After patients, health workers, and forcibly displaced people were forced to leave Al-Shifa, he moved to the Indonesian Hospital, where he was injured in an attack. He later relocated to Al-Awda Hospital, from where he and several other health workers were abducted about five months ago.

The whereabouts and conditions of many health workers who were taken from Al-Awda health centers, including hospital director Ahmed Muhanna, remain largely undisclosed by the IOF. However, released prisoners have shared testimonies of the torture and humiliation specifically endured by health workers in Israeli prisons. The associations representing prisoners stated, “What happened to Al-Bursh was a deliberate assassination, part of Israel’s systematic targeting of doctors and the healthcare system in Gaza.”

According to Al-Awda, Al-Bursh was killed already on April 19, but his death was only announced at the beginning of May. The organizations also warned that the surgeon was martyred as a result of severe torture in Ofer prison, and that his body has still not been released by the IOF.

Read more: Gaza’s health workers and patients face unprecedented mental health crisis

Israel’s targeting of health workers has been denounced as an effort to undermine the Palestinian resistance on numerous occasions. Testimonies from health workers released from prison describe severe beatings, deprivation of food and water, and forced humiliating treatment such as being chained and made to crawl.

Like other political prisoners taken by Israel since October 2023, health workers face severe long-term health consequences. The Resistance News Network reported that many continue to suffer from fractures and other injuries incurred early in their detention, with evident physical decline including significant weight loss and changed appearances.

In addition to torture and other physical abuses, Palestinian prisoners face health risks exacerbated by poor living conditions in Israeli prisons. One of the most recent health crises was a scabies outbreak at Al-Naqab prison, caused by overcrowding, reduced water supply, and inadequate sanitary facilities.

Despite ongoing assaults and the targeting of their facilities, Gaza’s health workers continue to provide care to thousands of patients and displaced individuals. However, without a ceasefire and accountability for Israel’s actions, they will continue to do so at tremendous risk.

People’s Health Dispatch is a fortnightly bulletin published by the People’s Health Movement and Peoples Dispatch. For more articles and to subscribe to People’s Health Dispatch, click here.