A Gaza Doctor Has Died in Israeli Custody, Palestinian Groups Say

A Palestinian doctor from the Gaza Strip, detained by Israeli forces and held for four months, has died in detention, Palestinian officials and detainee rights groups say.

Dr. Adnan Ahmad Albursh, 50, the head of orthopedics at Al-Shifa Hospital, the Gaza Strip’s biggest medical center, was detained along with other doctors in December by Israeli forces when they raided a hospital, according to the Palestinian Commission of Detainees’ Affairs and the Palestinian Prisoners Club, which advocate for the rights of Palestinian detainees held by Israel.

Israel’s military and prison service did not immediately respond to requests for comment. The Times of Israel cited the military as confirming that the Israeli prison service had declared Dr. Albursh dead on April 19, without giving a cause of death. It said he had been detained for national security reasons.

Israel has detained thousands of Palestinians from Gaza, including women and children. Former detainees have said that they suffered beatings and other physical abuse in Israeli custody, and the United Nations human rights office has said Israel’s treatment of detainees might amount to torture, which Israel denies. International human rights groups say they have been denied access to detainees.

Dozens of Palestinians have died in Israeli custody since Oct. 7, according to the Israeli military and rights groups. The Israeli military has said it is aware of the deaths of 27 Palestinians in its custody.

The prisoner rights groups accused Israel of abusing and killing Dr. Albursh, but did not offer evidence for their claims, or say how they knew about the circumstances of his confinement and death.

Dr. Albursh was detained while at Al Awda Hospital, where he fled after leaving Al Shifa, they said.

“He had a determination to continue treating his fellow countrymen,” said his nephew Khaled Albursh. “He could have left but he insisted on continuing to treat the wounded in the hospitals and even in the homes.”

Milena Ansari, the assistant researcher for Palestine for Human Rights Watch, said Dr. Albursh’s death raised grave concerns about the treatment of Palestinian detainees, and called for an independent investigation into the deaths of Palestinians in Israeli custody.

“This is not an isolated case,” she said, adding, “Those responsible for grave abuses should be prosecuted.”

The Israeli military has alleged that Hamas, the Palestinian political and armed group that took control of Gaza in 2007, built a command center in tunnels underneath Al-Shifa. Hamas and hospital administrators have rejected that claim.

Gaza’s medical system has come under sustained attack since Israel began its devastating bombing campaign and invasion of Gaza, in response to the Hamas-led attack in Israel on Oct. 7. Nearly 500 medical workers have been killed, the Palestinian Ministry of Health said.

The World Health Organization said that since Oct. 7, it has documented 443 attacks on health care facilities resulting in 723 fatalities.

On Dr. Albursh’s Facebook page, what appeared to be his last post appeared on Nov. 20.: “We will die standing and we will not kneel,” it said.

Rawan Sheikh Ahmad contributed reporting.

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