to bomb Israel's Soroka hospital:
'Open letter' by a Palestinian doctor
Published: 1 July 2005
Briefing Number 146
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
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
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
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)