GAZA’S STOLEN HEALERS: Hundreds of Palestinian Doctors Disappeared Into Israeli Detention

By Kavitha Chekuru
May 24 2024
IT’S BEEN TWO months since Osaid Alser has heard from his cousin, Khaled Al Serr, a surgeon at Nasser Hospital in the southern Gaza Strip city of Khan Younis.
Before late March, they had been in regular contact — or as regular as the shredded communication infrastructure would allow. Al Serr had created a telemedicine WhatsApp group where he and Osaid, a surgical resident in the U.S., recruited doctors from stateside, the U.K., and Europe to give advice to their overstretched colleagues in Gaza.
“He reported on a gunshot injury in a 70-year old,” Osaid said, of Al Serr. “It was in her head. And really, there were no neurosurgeons at that time.”
“He was sharing those cases, and he was asking for help,” Osaid went on. “It was like, ‘Is there any neurosurgeon that can help me? How can I fix this?’”
Al Serr was a natural vessel for the collective medical knowledge of the group chat. “He always wanted to help out, always liked to use his hands, to kind of fix a problem and have an immediate impact,” according to Osaid.
In February, the Israeli military invaded Nasser Hospital. The attack left the hospital hollowed out, just one of the destroyed health care centers in a medical system savaged by an overwhelming caseload and a relentless military assault by Israel.
Still, Al Serr maintained some optimism. His last post on Instagram was uploaded in mid-March, a short video showing the exterior of the hospital from the day before, captioned with a triumphant message:

Finally!! After more than a month of cutting electricity in Naser hospital, our staff was able to fix the generator and get the electricity again to Nasser Hospital. For the last two weeks, we are trying to clean and prepare the hospital’s departments to reopen the hospital again.

Six days later, on March 24, Israeli forces stormed the hospital again. Osaid had asked a few days earlier if Al Serr was alright. No response ever came. It was their last exchange.
His relatives believe that Khaled Al Serr, along with what was left of the hospital’s dwindling staff, was taken prisoner by Israel.
AS EARLY AS November, reports emerged of doctors being detained and going missing in north Gaza. According to the World Health Organization, at least 214 medical staff from Gaza have been detained by the Israeli military. In early May, the detention and alleged torture of medical staff from Gaza made headlines when Israeli authorities announced the death of Adnan Al-Bursh, a well-known surgeon and the head of orthopedics at Al-Shifa Hospital. After being taken into custody in December, officials said Al-Bursh died in April while in Ofer Prison, an Israeli detention facility in the occupied West Bank.
“Dr. Adnan’s case raises serious concerns that he died following torture at the hands of Israeli authorities. His death demands an independent international investigation,” Tlaleng Mofokeng, the United Nations special rapporteur on the right to health, said in a statement last week. “The killing and detention of healthcare workers is not a legitimate method of warfare. They have a legitimate and essential role to care for sick and wounded persons during times of conflict.”
Al-Bursh is one of at least 493 Palestinian medical workers who have been killed in Gaza since October 7, according to the Ministry of Health. The Israel Defense Forces has systematically targeted hospitals from the north to the south of the strip, claiming that Hamas operates in the facilities. Medical staff in Gaza’s hospitals have repeatedly denied this claim. This week, Israeli forces have…