Izzeldin Abuelaish

Gaza War (2008–09) University of Calgary Order of Ontario
Izzeldin Abuelaish
BornFebruary 3, 1955
Nationality Palestine
EducationUniversity of Cairo MD
University of London OB/Gyn
Harvard School of Public Health MPH
TitleMichael and Amira Dan Professor in Global Health

Izzeldin Abuelaish (Arabic: عزالدين أبو العيش‎), OOnt MSC is a Canadian-Palestinian medical doctor and author. He was born in Gaza, and was the first Palestinian doctor to work in an Israeli hospital. He was active in promoting Israeli-Palestinian reconciliation. His daughters attended a peace camp with Israeli children in the United States. During the Gaza War in January 2009, his three daughters and a niece were killed by Israeli tank fire directed at his home. He had been calling in reports about the effect of the war by phone to a TV station. In his regularly scheduled report, in tears, he described their killing on-air, in a video that was widely circulated in Israel and the world.[1] The Israeli military initially claimed that Dr. Abuelaish's house was targeted because it was the source of sniper fire. A day later the Israelis claimed to be targeting militants. It was further alleged, but unproven, that the dead girls' bodies contained shrapnel from Qassam rockets.[2]

He emigrated to Canada and wrote I Shall Not Hate. He now resides in Toronto, Canada, with his remaining children.

Life and career

Abuelaish was born and raised in the Jabalia refugee camp in the Gaza Strip. He received his elementary, preparatory and secondary education in the refugee camp schools.

Abuelaish received a scholarship to study medicine in Egypt. After completing medical studies at Cairo University in 1983, he earned a diploma in Obstetrics and Gynaecology from the University of London.[3]

From 1997 to 2002, he completed a residency in OB/Gyn at the Soroka Medical Center in Beersheba, Israel, followed by a subspecialty in fetal medicine in Italy and Belgium; then a master's degree in Public Health (Health Policy and Management) from Harvard University.[3]

He worked as a physician in the Gaza Strip, and also worked part-time in Israel at Soroka Medical Center and Sheba Medical Center. After the Hamas takeover of the Gaza Strip in 2007, he was one of the few Gazans to continue entering Israel regularly. He lived in a multi-story building in Jabaliya that he and his brother had built. In 2008, his wife died of cancer, and he was left to raise their eight children.

During the 2008–2009 Gaza War, he gave reports and interviews to the Israeli media on the situation in Gaza. On January 16, 2009, a few days before the end of the war, an Israeli tank fired two shells at his home, killing three of his daughters and a niece. An Israeli military investigation of the incident concluded that fire had been directed at his house after figures spotted on the roof of the building had been suspected of being observers directing sniper fire against IDF troops. The incident occurred as he had been corresponding live with Channel 10 reporter Shlomi Eldar, and his reaction to learning of the deaths of his daughters was broadcast live to Israeli audiences.[4][5]

He has written a book named I Shall Not Hate.

He founded the "Daughters for Life Foundation" in memory of three of his daughters, who were killed by Israeli tank fire during the Gaza War. The organisation provides scholarship awards to encourage young women from Palestine, Israel, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt and Syria to pursue their studies at universities in Canada, USA and Belgium.[6]

Dr. Abuelaish was the first Palestinian doctor to receive a staff position at an Israeli hospital, where he treated both Israeli and Palestinian patients. Immediately before the war he was a researcher at the Sheba Hospital in Tel Aviv[2] and already an important figure in Israeli-Palestinian relations.[7] The death of his children strengthened his resolve to promote reconciliation between Israelis and Palestinians.[8] He is currently Associate Professor of Global Health at the University of Toronto.[9]

In February 2013, he attended the Karachi Literature Festival in Pakistan where he narrated the events surrounding the death of his daughters killed in the Israeli airstrike. According to The Express Tribune, "there was hardly anyone in the audience who did not choke or wipe away a silent tear while listening to Palestinian doctor and author Izzeldin Abuelaish..."[10] Abuelaish describes events as follows:

We are standing in the scene of the tragedy, in the place where four lovely girls were sitting, building their dreams and their hopes, and in seconds, these dreams were killed. These flowers were dead. Three of my daughters and one niece were killed in one second on the 16th of January at a quarter to five p.m. Just a few seconds, I left them, and they stayed in the room — two daughters here, one daughter here, one daughter here, and my niece with them.

The first shell came from the tank space, which is there, came to shell two daughters who were sitting here on their chairs. And when I heard this shell, I came inside the room to find, to look. I can’t recognize my daughters. Their heads were cut off their bodies. They were separated from their bodies, and I can’t recognize whose body is this. They were drowning in a pool of blood. This is the pool of blood. Even look here. This is their brain. These are parts of their brain. Aya was lying on the ground. Shatha was injured, and her eye is coming out. Her fingers were torn, just attached by a tag of skin. I felt disloved, out of space, screaming, "What can I do?" They were not satisfied by the first shell and to leave my eldest daughter. But the second shell soon came to kill Aya, to injure my niece, who came down from the third floor, and to kill my eldest daughter Bessan, who was in the kitchen and came at that moment, screaming and jumping, "Dad! Dad! Aya is injured!"[2]

He became a Canadian citizen in 2015.[11]

Daughters for Life Foundation

Abuelaish established the Daughters for Life Foundation, which provides scholarships and awards for young female students in the Middle East. The foundation aims to invest in the potential for young women’s leadership, and to foster their success.[12]

Honours and awards



  1. ^ Israeli TV airs telephone call to father after children killed -English. January 17, 2009. Retrieved September 14, 2019 – via YouTube. (English subtitles)
  2. ^ a b c Amy, Goodman (January 19, 2011). "Gaza Doctor Izzeldin Abuelaish Two Years After Israeli Attack that Killed 3 Daughters & Niece: "As Long as I am Breathing, They are with Me. I Will Never Forget"". Democracy Now!. Retrieved 2013-04-21.
  3. ^ a b Izzeldin Abuelaish. Bloomsbury Retrieved on 2011-01-18
  4. ^ http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/7871122.stm
  5. ^ https://www.timesofisrael.com/court-rules-against-gaza-doctor-who-sued-over-shelling-that-killed-3-daughters/
  6. ^ Palestinian Doctor's Peace Efforts Turn To Anguish. NPR. Retrieved on 2011-01-18
  7. ^ Gazan Doctor and Peace Advocate Loses 3 Daughters to Israeli Fire and Asks Why. The New York Times. Retrieved on 2011-01-18
  8. ^ "Gaza: Life Without Borders." BBC News. Retrieved on 2011-01-19
  9. ^ Izzeldin Abuelaish MD, MPH, Faculty Profile. University of Toronto – Dalla Lana School of Public Health. Archived 2011-01-04 at the Wayback Machine Retrieved on 2011-01-18
  10. ^ "Man fights loss of three daughters in Israeli strike". The Express Tribune. February 18, 2013. Retrieved February 20, 2013.
  11. ^ Ghert-Zand, Renee (December 13, 2015). "After 6 years in Canada, Gazan doctor Izzeldin Abuelaish gains citizenship". The Times of Israel. Retrieved January 4, 2019.
  12. ^ "About". Daughters for Life Foundation. Retrieved June 2, 2017.
  13. ^ Niarchos. WorldNews. Retrieved on 2011-01-18
  14. ^ "The Common Ground Awards 2009". Search for Common Ground. Retrieved on 2011-01-18
  15. ^ 2009 Annual Conference Banquet Award Acceptance. Middle East Institute. Archived 2010-05-27 at the Wayback Machine Retrieved on 2011-01-18
  16. ^ 10 nominees for 2009 Sakharov human rights prize. European Parliament. Retrieved on 2011-01-18
  17. ^ "Queens College Center for Ethnic, Racial, and Religious Understanding Honors Three with its First-Ever 'Uncommon Courage Awards'". Queens College, City University of New York. Retrieved 2011-01-18.
  18. ^ "Premier Selinger Awards Gandi Peace Award of Canada to Gazan Doctor Abuelaish". Winnipeg Jewish Review. Archived from the original on 2011-07-18. Retrieved 2011-01-18.
  19. ^ "Dr. Izzeldin Abuelaish, Faculty of Medicine | U of T News". News.utoronto.ca. 2012-01-17. Retrieved 2013-04-21.
  20. ^ "Peace Prize | Peace Studies". University of Calgary. 2013-03-02. Retrieved 2013-04-21.
  21. ^ "25 Appointees Named to Ontario's Highest Honour". Ministry of Citizenship and Immigration.
  22. ^ "Public Peace Prize:Izzeldin Abuelaish". 2014-07-06. Retrieved August 9, 2014.
  23. ^ Brend, Yvette (June 11, 2016). "'Martin Luther King of Middle East' transforms tragedy into change". CBC News. Retrieved July 28, 2016.
  24. ^ "Meritorious Service Cross Citation".