Home Top Stories Israeli doctors confront a ‘heated question’ after Hamas attack: Would you treat a terrorist?

Israeli doctors confront a ‘heated question’ after Hamas attack: Would you treat a terrorist?

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Israeli doctors confront a ‘heated question’ after Hamas attack: Would you treat a terrorist?

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TEL AVIV — Facing an unprecedented crisis after the stunning Hamas attack, Israel’s doctors and nurses are now also embroiled in a heated debate: Would they — and should they — “treat terrorists?”

After reports spread that injured Hamas militants had been admitted to public hospitals to be treated alongside injured Israeli civilians, video emerged of dozens of angry people gathering at the entrance of one hospital in the country’s south. The incident, based on unverified rumors, spread widely across social media in a reflection of a broader national discussion.

At a hospital in the Israeli city of Tel Aviv, there were mixed feelings among patients and medical workers who spoke to NBC News on Thursday — the sixth day of war between the country and Hamas.

Follow live coverage from NBC News here.

“Among staff, it’s a very heated subject,” said Jacob Ablin, head of internal medicine at the Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center. “For some people, emotions are going, running very high and a lot of people would feel very angry and not want to treat terrorists,” he added.

As for him, Ablin, 59, said there was “no question” about whether he would treat a Hamas militant. “It’s like a no-brainer as far as I’m concerned. This is what we do. This is my profession.”

‘It’s not my job to punish people’

If he did have to treat a militant, Ablin said it would not be his first time, as he has already had to do so during his military service as a doctor in the Israeli army. “It never was a question. It’s just what you do,” he said.

“It’s not my job to punish people. I think those people should be punished in the harshest way possible, but not by me,” Ablin said.

"It's a very heated subject," said Jacob Ablin, head of internal medicine at the Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center.
“It’s a very heated subject,” said Jacob Ablin, head of internal medicine at the Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center.Chantal Da Silva

Ablin made the comments from the parking lot of the medical facility, which workers have rushed to transform into an “underground hospital.” The work is intended to protect patients from potential rocket attacks in the midst of the ongoing violence since Hamas launched its attack on Saturday.

So far, at least 1,300 Israelis, including 222 soldiers, have died, and in Gaza at least 1,400 people have been killed. As the war entered its sixth day, Hamas fired a new barrage of rockets toward Tel Aviv, while Israel continued to launch airstrikes on the Gaza Strip.

With emotions running high throughout Israel, video shared on social media Wednesday showed a sizable group of protesters arriving at the entrance to the Sheba Medical Center in Ramat Gan, near Tel Aviv, and walking around. Israeli media reports attributed the disturbance to a high-profile group of soccer hooligans, but NBC News has not verified the reports.

Israeli police said in a statement that three rioters were arrested at the facility. “A number of citizens arrived at the medical center and began to disturb the order there, shouting and blatantly disturbing the medical staff.”

“The police declared an illegal assembly and began to evict the violators by force. Three suspects were arrested for disorderly conduct, resisting arrest and possession of a knife,” authorities said.

Ablin said he had heard the news about a large group protesting outside a hospital, calling it a “very violent incident.”

A task for the national prison system

Ronni Gamzu, CEO of the Sheba Medical Center, said no Hamas militants were being treated at the facility and he noted that if any Hamas militants did need to be treated, they would be expected to receive medical care within the national prison system, rather than at local hospitals in Israel.

“This is not new,” he said of the protocol, adding that the national prison service has “for years” had the infrastructure to provide medical care for those in its custody.

Still, Gamzu said that if the hospital was ever asked to treat Hamas militants, “we know what our role is … we are doing what we need to do.”

Still, in the wake of Wednesday’s incident, the under-fire government responded.

Israeli media reported that the country’s health minister, Moshe Arbel, had written a letter to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu informing him that he had directed all public hospitals to send any injured Hamas fighters to military or prison service medical facilities.

A spokesperson for Arbel’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment from NBC News.

‘I’m not sure what the answer is’

While some health providers feel it would be their duty to provide medical care to whoever needs it, Amy Isenberg said that, for her, it was a “hard question, especially now.”

“I’m not sure what the answer is when you come face to face with it,” said Isenberg, a resident physician in the internal medicine ward at Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center.

Patients and their families at the hospital also weighed in, with some expressing outrage at the idea of any Israeli hospital treating a Hamas militant.

Adnan Aboubaker, 71, who was hospitalized after having a fall, lies on his hospital bed at the Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center on Thursday.
Adnan Aboubaker, 71, who was hospitalized after having a fall, lies on his hospital bed at the Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center on Thursday.Chantal Da Silva

“No,” Adnan Aboubaker, 71, who was hospitalized after having a fall unrelated to the Hamas attack, said sternly, slicing the air with his hand in a gesture that emphasized his opposition to the mere idea.

Another man, who did not want to be named and whose son was hospitalized for a medical condition, said that he wanted Hamas militants to die — not receive treatment in an Israeli hospital.

Marina Izmailov, 34, who was in the hospital after she was injured on Saturday when an air strike hit her home in Tel Aviv, leveling her apartment building, said she didn’t want to comment on the issue.

She said that despite what happened to her, she didn’t feel anger.

“I could be angry about what’s happened to me, but it’s so much bigger than that,” she said.

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