Gaza under siege: Is Israel responsible for Ahmed’s death?

  • Ahmed refused medical treatment by Isreali intelligence;
  • Israeli intelligence trade spying for urgent heart operation;
  • Two weeks after Ahmed’s death Israel Liason office called to grant travel permit; 

Family mourns death of 17-year-old boy, after Israel refused to let him leave Gaza for an urgent medical procedure.


Since infancy, Ahmed suffered from a faulty heart that required several major procedures and frequent visits to hospitals in Israel [Belal Aldabbour/Al Jazeera]
Israel approved less than 50 percent of request seeking to leave the Gaza Strip through Erez to get good medical treatment abroad.

“In many cases, cancer patients who had received two or three cycles [of treatment] had their travel requests stalled or rejected, effectively turning Erez into a trap and limiting the benefit of the treatment they may receive,” said Samir Zaqout, a field researcher at the Gaza-based al-Mezan human rights organisation.

The al-Mezan human rights organization continuously keep records of cases of critically ill Palestinians being approached by Israeli intelligence officers to cooperate in exchange for access to medical treatment. Al-Mezan noted two Palestinian patients died in 2016 after they were denied medical attention, and another nine patients were detained at Erez after they were deceived of being granted travel permits. Dozens more patients have reported various forms of harassment and extortion, even as Israel has denied using such treatments to gather intelligence; they say their objective was to ascertain whether the patients posed a threat to them.

The story you are about to read is that of Ahmed Shubair, a young man whose case ended in tragic memory.

Hassan Shubair is bluntly matter-of-fact when he was asked about the fate of his son, 17-year-old Ahmed Shubair.

“Instead of a high school diploma, my son received his death certificate,” Hassan told Al Jazeera.

Vibrant Ahmed was a final year in school before he died in mid-January from critical heart failure, increasing the disturbing number of victims who have died due to Israel’s siege on Gaza.

His father Hassan who works as a legal adviser in the economy ministry noted his son’s health had been terrible since infancy.

“From his very early days, Ahmed suffered from a faulty heart that required several major procedures and frequent visits to hospitals in Israel and the West Bank for follow-up,” Hassan said, noting that the procedures included a successful artificial heart valve implantation in 2007, after which Ahmed was able to lead a fairly normal life.

‘He was smart and excelled in class. His dream was to be able to help sick children with conditions like his’ [Belal Aldabbour/Al Jazeera]
“He loved swimming. The beach was his favourite getaway,” Amal, Ahmed’s mother, told Al Jazeera. “He was smart and excelled in class. His dream was to be able to help sick children with conditions like his, so he studied hard to be able to join medical school and, hopefully, to one day become a heart surgeon.”

However, in late 2915, Ahmed’s health condition began to worsen.

“My son’s heart was failing again, and doctors told us that he needed to replace the heart valve that he had installed nine years ago,” Amal said.

Experts at the Tel Hashomer Medical Centre in Jerusalem came to a unanimous agreement, and a date was fixed for Ahmed’s operation in early 2016. Ahmed and his mother went through the usual proceedings of applying for permission to travel to Jerusalem through Erez.

Sadly, the much needed clearance was denied. But, in late February, Amal was summoned for an interview in Erez. With no other choice she had to attend. There are Erez Amal was presented with a difficult choice.

“They [Israeli intelligence] told me that they were going to grant Ahmed access to medical treatment in exchange for my collaboration,” she said. “I said that I won’t help them take other people’s lives to save my son’s.”

The intelligence officers warned that my decision would affect my son’s possibility of getting treatment, Amal says, but they persisted. “We applied again, but … they kept telling us that the application was still going through a background check.”

After several months of application reply finally came. “We received a call from the liaison office on November 3 telling us that the Israelis wanted to interview Ahmed at Erez,” Hassan said.

After two weeks, Hassan accompanied his son to the crossing. He watched hopelessly as Ahmed disappeared into the long corridor leading from Gaza to the Israeli side of the Erez crossing.

“I waited for 12 hours. When Ahmed came out later, he looked exhausted and he was afraid. The Israeli officers took away his possessions and medication and kept him waiting in an empty room for 10 hours before he was interviewed,” Hassan said.

When the interview began, Ahmed was presented same offer his mother rejected earlier, said his family.

“He told them that he was just a sick boy hoping to get treatment, and that he spent most of his life between hospitals and knew nothing about the names or whereabouts of Palestinian militants,” Hassan said. “He never posed a threat to anyone in any of his previous treatment trips; he told them that, but this was not what they wanted to hear, so they sent him back and told him that he will die in Gaza.”

Ahmed’s health condition took a sharp turn in the following two months. His breath became brisk and smaller as fluids gathered in his lungs and body, until he could no longer breathe. On January 14, 2017, Ahmed died.

His death was devastating to his family and friends, even as his 15-year-old brother and roomie, Ali, was left distraught.

“I watched him every night, fighting for every breath as he got worse,” Ali told Al Jazeera.

Ahmed Shubair. [Belal Aldabbour/Al Jazeera]
Before he died, Ahmed told his parents that the Israeli officers had asked him one final question during his interview: “They asked him, would he treat Jewish children seeking to receive treatment in Gaza, should the situation be the other way around? His answer was a straight yes,” Amal said.

His younger brother now want to become a heart surgeon to fulfil his brother’s aspirations.

More devastating was that after two weeks of Ahmed’s death, the family got a phone call from an Israeli liaison officer telling them that Ahmed and his mother had been granted permission to travel for their medical procedures. For the mother, Amal, the call was terribly devastating to hear: “They won’t respect our grief.”

For Ahmed’s father, his son died with dignity and honor, refusing “to spy for the enemy to save his own life”.

“No one his age should face such a terrible choice,” Hassan said, “but Ahmed made the right call.”

You might be wondering same question as we do: “Who killed 17-year-old Ahmed Shubair”?




Credits: Al Jazeera

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