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War on Gaza: Prominent Palestinian doctor tortured and killed in Israeli detention

Adnan al-Bursh was a Palestinian surgeon and the head of orthopaedic medicine at al-Shifa hospital
Adnan al-Bursh was arrested by Israeli forces in December of last year (X)

Adnan al-Bursh, a Palestinian surgeon and professor of orthopaedic medicine, was killed by torture while in Israeli detention, according to a statement from the Palestinian Prisoners' Society. 

In what has been termed a "deliberate assassination", Bursh, 50, died in the Israel-controlled Ofer prison in the occupied West Bank on 19 April, according to the Palestinian Civil Affairs Committee, and his body remains withheld. 

Another detainee, Ismail Abdul Bari Khader, 33, also died in custody, according to the joint statement, and his body was handed over on 2 May along with 64 other prisoners. 

“The two victims died of torture and crimes committed against Gazan detainees,” the statement said.

Bursh was the head of orthopaedic medicine at al-Shifa hospital in Gaza City and had been arrested in December, around the same time that he had reportedly been wounded by Israeli bombardment at the Indonesian hospital in northern Gaza. 

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Until his arrest, Bursh regularly travelled around to different hospitals in the Gaza Strip to tend to patients, and at the time of his arrest, he was working at al-Awda hospital. Several medical staff and patients were also arrested alongside Bursh. 

Francesca Albanese, the United Nations special rapporteur on the occupied Palestinian Territories, said today that she was "extremely alarmed" at the death of the prominent doctor. 

"I urge the diplomatic community to intervene with concrete measures to protect Palestinians. No Palestinian is safe under Israel's occupation today," she wrote in a statement on X. 

Medical groups, including the World Health Organisation, have repeatedly demanded that attacks on Gaza's healthcare workers stop, with more than 200 killed so far in the Gaza conflict, according to one estimate.

The Palestinian health ministry said in a statement that Bursh’s death raised to 496 the number of medical sector workers who had been killed by Israel since 7 October when the war broke out. It added that 1,500 others had been wounded while 309 had been arrested.

The war in Gaza began on 7 October, when Hamas and other Palestinian armed groups launched a surprise attack on southern Israel, killing 1,140 people and taking around 240 people hostage. Israel responded to the attacks with a declaration of war, launching a siege on Gaza and a devastating aerial bombing campaign that was followed by a ground invasion.

Israel's war on the enclave has killed more than 34,500 Palestinians, most of whom are women and children, levelled entire residential neighbourhoods, and targeted other civilian infrastructure including schools, hospitals, and mosques.


At the end of six months of renewable administrative detention in April, Israel released dozens of Palestinian prisoners from several jails - people who had been arrested in the wake of the start of the war on Gaza on 7 October.

The evidence of mistreatment shown by the prisoners is indicative of what rights groups have warned is an unprecedented level of abuse taking place in Israel's jails, Middle East Eye reported late last month.

Palestinian prisoners released from Israeli jails tell of terrible impact of abuse
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Palestinian prisoner groups say the Israeli army has arrested more than 8,000 Palestinians from the West Bank alone since 7 October, including 280 women and at least 540 children.

Rights groups have documented widespread mistreatment, with the United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees (Unrwa) last week releasing a report detailing - among other abuses - detainees being urinated on and made to act like animals, and children being attacked by dogs.

There has been a complete blackout on the treatment of Palestinian prisoners, with rights groups relying on the testimonies of those released to document the abuse carried out against them.

The testimonies of Palestinian prisoners have horrified their families and the families of those with relatives still in jail.

At least 18 Palestinian prisoners are now thought to have died since 7 October.

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