Dr. Tarek Loubani mourns Dr. Hani Al-Haitham, head of Shifa’s Emergency Room

Dr. Tarek Loubani is a professor at the University of Western Ontario (London, Canada) and an emergency physician who has provided care on the front lines and in hospitals in Gaza, particularly at al-Shifa Hospital. During the Great March of Return in 2018, he was injured in the leg. He published a post this morning to pay tribute to his colleague Dr. Hani Al-Haitham, head of Shifa’s Emergency Room, killed with his family by the Israeli army

I have been deeply mourning Dr. Hani Al-Haitham since he was killed a few days ago. I want to tell you about Hani, an incredible person and doctor. He was killed with his wife, Dr. Samira Al-Ghefari and their five children, Sherin, Thea (Tota), Sara, Samir, and Wafaa.

Hani just turned 41 years old when he was killed and only a few years into his career as an emergency doctor. He boarded in 2019 and became head of Shifa’s Emergency Room (ER) a few weeks before COVID hit. He met the challenge, helping reconfigure the department for the pandemic.

Hani was a talented Emergency Physician, but Emergency was his second career. Hani was first an accomplished neurosurgeon. In 2009, he was part of the first team to remove a brain tumour in Gaza. This remarkable feat allowed patients to be treated under blockade in Gaza.

These weren’t just lifesaving surgeries, but also quality of life ones like spinal canal widening. When I met Hani in 2011, I just turned thirty and he was about to. I was beginning my career and he already got bored with his. We served in the ER during the 2012 war together.

He felt he could make a bigger impact in the ER, especially during wars. He joined the board program, and for four years after, he was one of our students. It was obvious he should become the new chief of Shifa’s emergency department, a job we had to convince him to take.

In 2021, he led the department through a war. Over the past two months, he served fearlessly, among the last doctors out of Shifa as Israel besieged it. He miraculously escaped arrest as he left, which may be why he was assassinated with his family.

His wife, Dr. Samira Al-Ghefari, was an accomplished doctor in her own right. While raising five children, she got a Master’s degree in 2019. She cared deeply about women’s health and primary care. I didn’t know her well, but I knew enough to be in awe.

His children were killed with him, beautiful and vibrant balls of energy who I only met briefly during visits to Hani’s home to talk shop. Samir celebrated his 7th birthday on Nov 14th, hungry and afraid as Israel’s bombs fell, not knowing if he would ever see his father again.

A few years back, Hani wrote “We belong to our nation. In it we’ll stay. We were born here; raised here; were students and spent our nights studying here. We worked here. We had a duty, and we honoured it. This nation is carried forward through selfless sacrifice, toil, and perseverance.”

Rest in Peace, Hani. I miss you so much.

Tarek Loubani,

December 21, 2023

Dr. Hani Al-Haitham
In 2009, he was part of the first team to remove a brain tumour in Gaza.