Palestinian doctor dies in Israeli prison

Dr Adnan Al-Bursh wearing surgical scrubs speaking into a microphone being held in front of him
Dr Adnan Al-Bursh speaking to BBC Arabic’s Gaza Lifeline programme [BBC]

A Palestinian doctor has died in an Israeli prison after more than four months in detention, Palestinian prisoner associations have said.

Dr Adnan Al-Bursh, 50, was the head of orthopaedics at al-Shifa Hospital.

The Israeli prison service confirmed that a statement published on 19 April about a prisoner who was detained for national security reasons and had died in Ofer prison was Dr Al-Bursh.

No details were given on the cause of death, and the prison service said the incident was being investigated.

But the Palestinian prisoner advocacy groups said in a joint statement on Thursday that Dr Al-Bursh's death was an "assassination" and his body still remained in Israeli custody.

Dr Al-Bursh was the head of orthopaedics at Gaza's largest medical facility, al-Shifa hospital, which has been raided several times by Israeli armed forces.

He was temporarily working at Al-Awada hospital in north Gaza when he was detained by Israeli forces.

Colleagues have paid tribute to the late surgeon, describing him as "compassionate" and "heroic".

Al-Shifa's director, Dr Marwan Abu Saada, said the news of his death was difficult for the human soul to bear.

Another colleague, Dr Suhail Matar, called Dr Al-Bursh “the safety valve” for every orthopaedic department in all of Gaza’s hospitals.

"It is rare that you meet a person like him in your life, because this doctor worked all his life with dedication and used to make tremendous efforts at the expense of himself," Dr Matar told BBC Arabic's Gaza Lifeline programme.

He described his late colleague as someone who was never tired of working, and who was "loved by everyone and his smile never went away".

Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza with smoke billowing in the back and tents in front
Dr Adnan Al-Bursh was the head of orthopaedics at Gaza's largest medical facility, al-Shifa hospital. [Reuters]

Francesca Albanese, the UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in the West Bank and Gaza, said she was "extremely alarmed" by news of Dr Al-Bursh's death and called on the diplomatic community to take concrete measures to protect Palestinians.

Meanwhile White House spokeswoman Karine Jean-Pierre said President Joe Biden has discussed with Israel the importance of protecting humanitarian workers in Gaza.

"The president has said very clearly that when it comes to people who are... in Gaza providing that all-important care, humanitarian aid, humanitarian care, they need to be protected. They should be protected. And so certainly those conversations are going to continue," she said.

"We believe that certainly... the Israeli government has taken efforts to do just that and has taken into account our concerns and so we're going to continue to have those conversations but it is heartbreaking to hear."

Gaza's Hamas-run health ministry said in a statement that Dr Al-Bursh’s death meant that the total number of medical workers who had been killed by Israel since the 7 October attack now stands at 496.

It added that 1,500 others had been wounded while 309 had been arrested.

Medical facilities are protected under international law, but Israel says Hamas uses them as cover for military operations - something Hamas denies.

The BBC has approached the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) for comment.