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Israeli doctor who saved Hamas leader Sinwar's life in prison tells how his nephew was murdered on Oct 7

Former Israeli dentist Yuval Bitton, who treated Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar in an Israeli prison, holds a photo of nephew, hostage Tamir Adar, during an interview in his house in Kibbutz Shoval, Israel, Feb. 5, 2024. (Photo: REUTERS/Amir Cohen)

Israel's practice of providing healthcare and hospitalization to Palestinian terrorists and those who are injured – even from enemy states – regularly provokes bewilderment, admiration and controversy among Israelis and international communities alike.

In 2004, Dr. Yuval Bitton was part of the medical team that saved the life of Yahya Sinwar, senior Hamas leader in Gaza, by ensuring he received urgent medical treatment, including surgery to remove a brain tumor, while he was a prisoner in an Israeli jail.

Bitton’s actions have taken on a new level of dissonance, as it was revealed that the doctor's nephew, Tamir Adar, was killed in the Hamas massacre last October.

The Hamas chief had promised to repay Israel for the treatment he received when he was released in 2011, however, Bitton said that, instead, Sinwar “made up for it on October 7 in that he was also directly responsible for the murder of my nephew in Kibbutz Nir Oz.”

During the massacre, dubbed “Operation Al Aqsa Flood” among Palestinian terrorists, Adar was fighting against five terrorists and died from his wounds after being injured and kidnapped into Gaza.

“They didn’t really stand a chance,” Bitton explained on CNN. “He was kidnapped while he was still seriously injured [and] unconscious, and died after a few hours in Gaza.”

Sinwar served four life sentences for the abduction and murder of two soldiers in Israel's Nafha Prison, where Dr. Bitton was working as a dentist. Sinwar never completed his full sentence in prison but in exchange for Gilad Shalit, was released early in 2011 as one of 1,000 Palestinian prisoners.

Initially, Sinwar was being treated by Bitton for neck pain and loss of balance, and the doctor decided to have him transferred to the hospital for further treatment. During the diagnosis, they discovered a brain tumor and removed it, which resulted in saving Sinwar’s life. 

“When he explained to me what was happening to him, I diagnosed it as a stroke, and together with the general practitioner, we decided to take him to the hospital,” explained Bitton. “He arrived at the hospital, the diagnosis was that he had an abscess in the brain, and he was operated on that day, thus saving his life – because if it had exploded, he would have died.”

Bitton’s critical decision to send him to hospital has been acknowledged by Sinwar.

“He also told me that – on the day he was released in [Gilad] Shalit’s deal in 2011 – that he owed me his life, and one day, he will repay it.”

However, Sinwar allegedly spent the years after his prison release planning a calculated invasion and attack against Israel with the intention of murdering as many Israelis as possible.

During his time in prison, Sinwar allegedly studied Israeli classic literature to comprehend the Israeli mindset and followed Israeli news carefully. He understood the high value placed on each Israeli life to gain leverage and reportedly considered himself a “specialist in the Jewish people’s history.” 

“I know the person who planned and conceived and initiated this criminal attack,” said Bitton, who added, “I have known him since 1996 – not only him but the entire Hamas leadership in Gaza – and it was clear to me that this is what they were planning.”

“We dismissed Hamas,” said Bitton, expressing his concern that Israel did not take the threats seriously as it should have. “Hamas said everything it intended to do, but we didn’t want to listen.”

During the CNN interview, Bitton said Sinwar believes that Jews have “no place” on “Muslim lands.”

Having spent many hours with the terrorist leader, the doctor said he understood it was “only a matter of time and timing that they [Hamas] will act against us and try to expel us from the place where we live.” 

He also believes that Sinwar is “willing to sacrifice even 100,000 Palestinians to ensure the survival of his rule”. Seeing Sinwar as primarily interested in power, Bitton said, “He is willing to pay with the lives of militants, Hamas members, [and] civilians; he doesn’t care.”

The fact that some who perpetrated or assisted in the attack on Oct. 7 received hospital care has been a step too far for many Israelis.

However, Israel’s commitment to preserving life runs deep. Several Israeli organizations, such as Save a Child’s Heart and Shevet Achim, are dedicated to bringing children from neighboring countries and the Palestinian territories to Israeli hospitals for life-saving treatment.

Jo Elizabeth has a great interest in politics and cultural developments, studying Social Policy for her first degree and gaining a Masters in Jewish Philosophy from Haifa University, but she loves to write about the Bible and its primary subject, the God of Israel. As a writer, Jo spends her time between the UK and Jerusalem, Israel.

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