The attempt to bomb Israel's Soroka hospital:
'Open letter' by a Palestinian doctor

Published: 1 July 2005
Briefing Number 146

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Summary: On 21 June 2005 a 21 year old Palestinian woman from Gaza attempted a suicide bomb attack on Israel’s Soroka hospital, where she was a patient. This Briefing contains the text of an open letter published following the incident by a Palestinian doctor, Izzeldin Abuelaish, who resides in Gaza and works at Soroka. This episode was ignored by virtually all international media.

Background – from burns patient to suicide bomber

Wafa Samir Ibrahim al-Biss is a 21 year old Palestinian woman, who lives in the Jabalya refugee camp in the Gaza strip.

In January 2005 she suffered burns in a cooking accident in her home. She was admitted for treatment to the Soroka hospital in the Israeli town of Beer Sheva.

She became an outpatient and was issued by the Israeli authorities with a special pass entitling her to cross into Israel to receive medical treatment.

On 21 June 2005 she was arrested at the Erez crossing point, on her way out of Gaza and to Soroka, wearing 10 kgs of explosives in her underwear. On Israeli TV she admitted that she had planned to explode the bomb in the hospital where she was being treated. She stated that she had been recruited by the Fatah Al Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigade, and added that she had wanted to target as many children as possible (BBC worldwide website, 21 June 2005; Jerusalem Post 22 June; Israeli press statements, various).

The following ‘open letter’ was published on 24 June 2005 in the Jerusalem Post, responding to this attempted attack. The letter is by Dr Izzeldin Abuelaish who is an obstetrician and gynaecologist from the Jabalya refugee camp in the Gaza strip, who works at Soroka hospital.

An Open Letter by a Gaza doctor, published in The Jerusalem Post

As a Palestinian doctor who has worked at Soroka hospital in Beersheva for eight years, I was outraged at the cynical and potentially deadly suicide bombing attempt by Wafa Samir Ibrahim al-Biss.

On Monday she was caught at the Erez crossing from the Gaza strip wearing explosives stitched to her underwear and admitted that her goal was to kill dozens of people at the hospital including as many children as possible.

I conduct research at the hospital’s Genetic Institute, and Soroka has become my home away from home. I have built warm professional relations with my colleagues in the obstetrics and gynaecology department and other units.

I make a point, whenever I’m at the hospital, of visiting Palestinian patients. I also schedule appointments for other Gaza residents, and even bring medication from Soroka to needy patients in the Strip.

I have nothing but praise for the doctors, nurses and other medical staff at Soroka hospital. They show compassion, sympathy and kindness. I was therefore extremely shocked and upset to hear that Wafa Biss, from the Jabalya refugee camp, was wired with explosives to blow herself up at Soroka, a place where she had been treated with kindness and mercy.

On the very day she planned to detonate her bomb, two Palestinians in critical condition were waiting in Gaza to be taken for urgent medical treatment to Soroka. Wafa was sent to kill the very people in Israel who are healing Palestinians from the Gaza strip and West Bank. What if Israeli hospitals now decide to bar Palestinians seeking treatment? How would those who sent Biss feel if their own relatives, in need of medical care in Israel, are refused treatment?

As for Biss herself, she should have been a messenger for peace among her people, and should have been bringing flowers and appreciation to the Soroka doctors for healing her burns. Instead, she targeted the very people who treated her with such compassion. Israeli hospitals extend humanitarian treatment to Palestinians from the Gaza Strip and West Bank. These efforts continued when all other cooperation between Palestinians and Israelis came to a halt during the most recent intifada.

To plan an operation of this kind against a hospital is an act of evil. Children, women, patients, doctors and nurses were the target. Is this a reward for kindness? Is this an advertisement for Islam, a religion which respects and sanctifies human life? This is aggression and a violation of humanity.

What are we going to say if Israel now clamps down on Palestinian patients seeking medical treatment inside Israel? All of us know that we are suffering from collective punishments imposed by the Israelis. We now risk imposing additional suffering on Palestinians in need of medical care.

Soroka is a hospital that has opened its doors to treat Palestinians without discrimination, offering the best care available. I want to tell my friends and colleagues at Soroka that all the Gaza residents I have spoken to have expressed their condemnation for this evil and brainless act. At a time when we badly need to build bridges of trust and tolerance, Soroka is the only door left open when other hospitals are closed to Gaza residents.

We should all denounce any attempts to attack hospitals and harm their patients. The Biss family members have, themselves, issued a statement condemning the use of their daughter. I hope that despite this incident Soroka hospital will continue to be an oasis of peace and coexistence. That is the correct message to defeat the enemies of peace.

Other Beyond Images Briefings

Israel’s Medical Support For Palestinian Society – Briefing 110 (2 Nov 2004)