Palestinian groups protest after death of doctor held in Israeli prison

Activists rally to protest against Israeli attacks on hospitals (REUTERS)
Activists rally to protest against Israeli attacks on hospitals (REUTERS)

A senior Palestinian doctor died after being held in an Israeli prison for more than four months, according to Palestinian prisoner associations which blamed Israel for his death.

They said Adnan Al-Bursh, head of orthopedics at Al Shifa Hospital, Gaza's largest medical facility, had been detained by Israeli forces while temporarily working at Al-Awada Hospital in north Gaza.

They called his death an "assassination" and said his body remained in Israeli custody.

The Israeli prison service said a prisoner detained for national security reasons died in Ofer prison but gave no detail on the cause of death.

A prison service spokesperson said the incident was being investigated.

Inside a ruined hospital in Gaza (REUTERS)
Inside a ruined hospital in Gaza (REUTERS)

Medical groups, including the World Health Organization, have repeatedly called for a halt to attacks on Gaza healthcare workers, with more than 200 killed so far in the Gaza conflict, according to an estimate from Insecurity Insight, a research group that collects and analyses data on attacks on aid workers around the world.

The Palestinian health ministry said in a statement that Bursh’s death raised to 496 the number of medical sector workers killed by Israel since October 7.

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

Francesca Albanese, the U.N. Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in the West Bank and Gaza, said on X she was alarmed by Bursh's death and urged the diplomatic community to take concrete measures to protect Palestinians.

"How many more lives will have to be taken before UN Member States, especially those demonstrating genuine concern for human rights globally, act to protect the Palestinians?" she said.

Israel accuses Hamas of using hospitals for military purposes and says its operations against them have been justified by the presence of fighters. Hamas and medical staff deny the allegations.

Earlier on Thursday, the Israeli authorities released 64 Palestinians they had detained during their military offensive in Gaza via the Israeli-controlled Kerem Shalom crossing, the Palestinian borders and crossings agency said.

One of them was the body of another man who had died in detention, the prisoners' associations said.

Another freed detainee arrived in critical condition and was moved into hospital upon arrival, the crossings agency added.

Dozens of Palestinians freed by Israel in past months including some staff of a U.N. agency have reported ill-treatment during detention, including torture and deprivation of food and sleep.

Golders Green: Posters of people taken hostage by Hamas (Ross Lydall)
Golders Green: Posters of people taken hostage by Hamas (Ross Lydall)

The two new deaths bring the toll of Gazans who died in Israeli custody to at least 18 since the start of the war, the prisoners associations said, urging Israeli authorities to disclose the number, location and fate of detainees from Gaza.

Israel's military operation in Gaza was triggered by Hamas's October 7 attack, which by its tallies killed 1,200 with 253 taken hostage.

The subsequent Israeli bombardment has killed more than 33,000 Palestinians, according to Palestinian medics, and displaced the majority of Gaza's 2.3 million people