'45 days of Israeli torture': Gaza doctor returns to work to held Palestinian day after release

'45 days of Israeli torture': Gaza doctor returns to work to held Palestinian day after release
A doctor in Gaza speaks of his ordeal after being detained by Israeli forces in December, describing the 'hell' of the situation he suffered for weeks.
3 min read
05 February, 2024
Most of Gaza's hospitals are out of service because of Israel's bombardment and siege of the enclave [Getty]

A Palestinian pediatrician who was abducted and tortured by Israeli soldiers in Gaza returned to work the day after he was freed saying it was his "humanitarian duty" to treat children.

Dr. Said Abdulrahman Maarouf says he was taken by Israeli soldiers from Gaza’s Al-Ahli Hospital in December when Israeli forces stormed the facility.

He was detained for 45 days where he said was subject to severe torture and starvation.

"When the commander called us outside to go to the tanks, or the place where we surrendered ourselves, I thought that I would stay with them for a few hours and leave. I also thought that if they took me and some colleagues, we would be treated well because we are doctors," he tells the media.

But he was handcuffed, blindfolded, and his legs were tied for 45 days.

He describes the torture he witnessed in detention as "very, very, very" severe. "I was wishing I could die because of the pain."

The prison guards ordered him to sleep on gravel, without a pillow or a blanket, with loud music blasting "as if it was a party".

"Sleeping on gravel was the worst part of my experience," he says.

"My weight was 87 kg, but in 45 days I lost more than 25 kg. I lost my balance, focus, all my senses. We were shackled for 45 days."

He has no idea where he was held because he was blindfolded the entire time, not even if he stayed in Gaza or left the enclave.

After being released last week, the paediatrician went to work at the Yousef al-Najjar Hospital in the Gaza Strip’s southernmost city of Rafah, where hundreds of thousands of Palestinians have fled to, saying it is his "humanitarian duty" to help children in need.

But Maarouf says he doesn’t know anything about his family and whether they survived Israel’s intense bombardment.

He last spoke to his daughter when Israeli forces surrounded Al-Ahli Hospital and called on doctors and medical staff to leave the building. At the time, his family was at home in Gaza City with about 15 to 20 relatives.

It is not clear why he was arrested, but Israel has been accused of widespread abuses and torture of Palestinian detainees - including medical staff - in Gaza since it began bombing the besieged territory on 7 October.

There have been several reports of doctors being taken by Israeli forces and disappeared.

Israel accuses Hamas of using hospitals as operations bases and command centres, although it has now provided any convincing evidence to back its claims.

Most of the enclave’s hospitals have shut, either after being damaged by Israeli strikes or running out of medical supplies and fuel.

Youssef al-Najjar Hospital in Rafah is one of only a few remaining health facilities still functioning in the Gaza Strip, but the Israeli army’s advancement onto Rafah puts that city in grave danger.

Close to 27,500 have been killed by Israel’s air and ground offensive in about four months, the vast majority civilians.