Dr. Iyad Abu Zahar was last in Russia 20 years ago.

Then he was finishing his studies at a medical university and did not think that one day he would move here with his family.

“I came to Russia in 1993 and entered the Stavropol State Medical Academy.

Before that, I studied Russian for a year in Kyiv.

In 2004, I graduated from graduate school, defended myself and went to Palestine.

By that time I already had Russian citizenship.

A year and a half later I got married.

Now we have six children: three boys and three girls.

I worked as a surgeon, then I got my own clinic.

Then I became director general of the Ministry of Health and also taught at the university.

I had everything: a family, a good salary, a car, a house,” Iyad Abu Zahar tells RT.

  • Interview with Iyad Abu Zahar

Before and after

As Iyad Abu Zahar recalls, he planned to spend October 7, 2023 at home with his family.

But in the morning I realized that the situation between Gaza and Israel was rapidly heating up.

“At 06:30 in the morning I heard the sound of rockets.

I looked out the window and saw them in the sky.

There were many of them.

I thought that something wrong was happening, so I needed to go to the hospital.

I got into the car and drove to work.

And from October 7, I was in the hospital for several months without leaving the building,” says the doctor.

During the first days of the conflict, his family was at home; his older brother Abu Zahara looked after his wife and children.

But ten days after the situation began to worsen, the doctor’s wife called and reported that neighbors in the area began to leave their homes.

“I told them to also get out and come to my hospital,” says the doctor.

“On the same day, a rocket flew into our house and destroyed it.

There was nowhere to return; all things and documents remained there.

I found a room for the family in the hospital.

This is where they lived while I worked.”

  • © Photo from personal archive

"Difficult situation"

According to Iyad, despite the fact that the family was nearby, he practically did not see his wife and children: there was a lot of work at the hospital.

“I monitored the condition of the patients and the condition of my subordinates.

The situation was difficult.

More than once a situation arose when we were standing in the operating room, and the doctor received a call and was informed that a rocket had landed at his house and one of his relatives was trapped under the rubble,” says Iyad.

  • © Photo from personal archive

Due to the large number of wounded people being taken to the hospital, doctors had to choose who to treat first.

When the operating rooms were busy, operations had to be performed even on the floor.

“The medicine ran out quickly.

We performed operations without anesthesia.

I had a case: I operated on a 12-year-old girl who had a wound in the stomach.

I picked her up and carried her to the operating room, but everyone was busy.

Then I ran into the room, put a towel from the floor into the liver (there was no time for infection, it was necessary to save a life!) and operated without anesthesia.

She’s fine, she survived,” says the doctor.

— There were a lot of wounded.

We were constantly faced with the choice of who to take into the operating room first.

When you, as a doctor, stand and look at who to leave alive, it’s very difficult.”

  • © Photo from personal archive

As the doctor says, in such conditions it was necessary not to pay attention to sterility - both in operating rooms and when caring for patients.

“There were children in the incubator who were born with problems.

We made them a milk formula with dirty water, because there was simply no other option.

One day a woman asked me: “Are you really feeding my child dirty water?”

I replied that it would only make him stronger.

She asks, “Are you kidding me?”

I say: “I’m not making fun of you, it’s just different - no way.

But you must understand that he is alive, the immune system will cope.”

Recalling those days, Iyad says his relatives asked him to evacuate with his family, but he could not leave his job and the sick.

“The Russian Embassy called me several times and said: “Look, the situation is very difficult, we want to evacuate you with your family, your mother, whoever you want.”

I thank them very much, but then I couldn’t leave the hospital,” says the doctor.

  • © Photo from personal archive

However, soon, when, according to him, the Israelis surrounded the hospital with tanks and began to fire at it, the doctor changed his mind.

“People were very scared - both patients and doctors.

My employees began to leave the hospital.

This is what Israel wanted.

I stayed,” Iyad recalls.

“Soon they started shooting at the hospital wall.

Four ambulances were destroyed and their drivers were injured.

I remember this moment.

It was very difficult for me to look out the window and see my patients running away.

They were unable to walk, but they still tried to run.

Some were crawling.

It’s very difficult to see your patients in this condition.”

That same night, the hospital ran out of fuel for its generators.

There was no way to bring him.

“It was January 16 or 17.

At seven in the evening the lights went out completely.


People were very scared, and those who remained began to leave the hospital.

At night the hospital was shelled again, and I decided to call the embassy and ask for evacuation,” says the doctor.

  • © Photo from personal archive


The next day at seven in the morning, Iyad went with his family to the Rafah checkpoint on the border with Egypt.

“We were met by Russian diplomats from Cairo, but the Egyptians, unfortunately, did not let me through.

They said: “Go back to the Gaza Strip.

We can only take the children, but not you.

Come back."

They said that the Israelis did not give me permission to leave.

I asked: “What does the Israelis have to do with it?

I have a Russian passport, I am a citizen of Russia.

But at the same time, I am Palestinian - I have dual citizenship.

After all, the border here is between the Gaza Strip and Egypt,” says the doctor.

According to Iyad Abu Zahar, they could not help him.

The children were crying, the wife, who did not know Russian, refused to go to unfamiliar Russia without her husband.

But Iyad convinced them to leave their homeland.

“More than 300 employees of our ministry were killed in the Gaza Strip, including 63 doctors.

“I understood that they would kill me - because I am a doctor, because I am the director of the hospital,” says the doctor.

“I returned to the small hospital in the city of Rafah.

There were a lot of my colleagues there.”

  • © Photo from personal archive

Iyad could not spend the night in the hospital - there were barely enough places for the sick.

He tried to rent a room from a local resident, but he asked the doctor to leave his house, fearing for his life.

“He was afraid that because of me a rocket would fly into his house if the Israelis found out about me,” the doctor said.

“Since January, I have been in touch with your colleagues from the Arabic editorial office of RT.

When they didn’t let me through at the border, I decided to ask them for help.

I gathered four more colleagues who were also not allowed into Egypt, and we were just waiting for the go-ahead.

Only on February 16 at eight in the morning they called me and said: “Gather your colleagues.

Drive quickly to the checkpoint, don’t waste time,” Iyad recalls.

- We succeeded.

We stayed in Egypt for a couple of days and flew to Moscow on February 18th.

The next day I was able to fly to Nazran and meet my family.”

“Children are everything in the world”

The doctor did not see his family for about a month.

The guys prepared a surprise for dad - they inflated balloons for his arrival.

“Children are everything in the world.

Home and children.

If you cannot provide for your children, arrange a home for them, your heart is heavy.

I built my house with my father for a very long time.

And at one moment someone fired a rocket at him,” says the doctor.

“It’s hard to build everything again, especially since I know almost no one here.”

But the main thing is that the children and wife are safe and we are together.

Otherwise, I think everything will be fine.

All that remains is to pick up my mother.

She is 80 years old and remains in Gaza.

I'm very worried about her.

Yesterday she sent me a video and said that the main thing is that I am now in a safe place.

He says: “Don’t look back, I don’t have much time left to live there.”

  • Doctor Iyad with his mother

  • © Photo from personal archive

According to Iyad Abu Zahar, he plans to get a job and help his wife obtain Russian citizenship.

“The people here in Nazran are very good.

When I order a taxi, I also need to get the drivers to take money.

When they find out that we are from Gaza, they want to take us for free in order to help us in some way,” says Iyad.

- I love Russia.

Russia is in my blood.

Many years ago, my brother asked what is more important to me - Palestine or Russia?

I said honestly that it’s on the same level.

Although I am a Palestinian, Russia is a great country.

I am grateful to God that I studied here.”