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December 18, 2023

Hospitals in Gaza are continuing to come under intense attack, leaving staff struggling to save lives amid near-impossible conditions.

We are extremely alarmed to learn that Dr Ahmed Muhanna, manager of the hospital run by ActionAid’s partner Al-Awda, has been arrested by the Israeli military and taken to an unknown location. Other staff members at the hospital were also detained before being released.  

One of the last functioning hospitals in the north of Gaza, the Al-Awda Hospital, has been under siege for more than 12 days now, with snipers surrounding the hospital and people unable to leave or enter. There are 92 healthcare workers, 38 patients, and 40 people accompanying patients trapped inside the building, and supplies are running dangerously low.

Haneen, the Communication & Media Coordinator for Al-Awda Hospital, who has been displaced to the south, sent the following update about the situation her colleagues and patients at the hospital are facing:

“They have almost no food left, or maybe no food left at all. They were also unable to turn on the external generator to fill the tanks with water. Their basic necessities are being exhausted; they have almost nothing left. The water tanks were bombed. Food sources are very limited, and patients’ conditions are worsening.”

The arrest of Dr Muhanna at Al-Awda Hospital follows the detention of Ahmed Al-Kahlout, director of the Kamal Adwan Hospital, and Muhammad Abu Salmiya, director of Al-Shifa Hospital. These men are medical professionals and have a protected status under international humanitarian law, which must be upheld. We call for all three, and all other healthcare staff, to be released immediately so that they can continue to provide life-saving care for their patients.  

Hospitals from the north to the south in Gaza are trying courageously to work in nightmarish conditions. An Israeli military raid on Kamal Adwan Hospital in the north over the weekend killed at least eight people and rendered the facility “non-functional”, according to the WHO. According to the health minister, 12 babies in incubators at the hospital lack water and food. With no more beds available, MSF reports that medics are having to operate on the floor.

Al-Shifa Hospital, the largest medical complex in Gaza, is now only “minimally functional”, according to the WHO. With only a handful of doctors and nurses, staff are only able to provide basic trauma stabilization and have no blood available for transfusion. Yet, the flow of new patients needing care remains constant.  

After more than two months of bombardment, only 11 out of Gaza’s 36 hospitals remain partially able to function. At least 300 healthcare workers have been killed in Gaza since October 7, the UN reports. This is more than the total number of healthcare workers killed across all countries in conflict in any year since 2016, according to Medical Aid for Palestinians.

In the West Bank, too, Palestinian health workers are being increasingly prevented from carrying out their medical duties. During Israeli military raids in the city of Jenin last week, ambulances were blocked from reaching hospitals, according to MSF, and paramedics were obstructed from responding to emergency calls, according to PCRS.

A paramedic based in Jenin sent us this voice note highlighting the conditions they have to work under:

We are being insulted and our ambulances are undergoing extreme inspections. Even injured people are suffering. They need their IDs on them to pass.

Paramedics are being humiliated by being forced to undress for degrading inspections. We spend hours detained. Some of our friends who are paramedics were also arrested. There is no respect [for] international treaties or human rights. We, as paramedics, are being treated as part of the resistance or as military personnel. Our humiliation has become our new norm, just a part of our daily routine now.

A child died when the ambulance carrying him to the hospital was stopped for inspection. The child’s father had to carry him and walk to the hospital. Sadly, this child did not make it to the emergency room.

The medical teams and ambulances are being violated. Never in my experience as a paramedic have I witnessed similar violations.”

We remain deeply horrified at the healthcare situation in Gaza and the West Bank and steadfast in our conviction that medical facilities and health workers should never, ever be targeted. We call for international humanitarian law to be upheld and any alleged violations to be thoroughly investigated.

Riham Jafari, Advocacy and Communications Coordinator at ActionAid Palestine, said:

“It is coming up to two weeks that staff and patients have been trapped inside Al-Awda Hospital. The situation is incredibly dire, and unless this siege ends soon, patients will start to die, and staff will begin to starve. We’re deeply shocked that Dr Ahmed Muhanna, the manager of the hospital, has been detained and we call for him to be released immediately. Saving lives is not a crime.

Hospitals should be safe havens but from the north to south in Gaza they have become disaster zones. Entire wards have been reduced to rubble, and injured patients are having to undergo operations on the corridor floors. Heroic staff are continuing to treat people as best they can but there is little they can do without medicines, blood transfusions and the fuel to power life-saving equipment.

The healthcare system is already at its limit but without a permanent ceasefire, the number of injured and sick people needing urgent medical care will continue to mount. Today organisations and individuals from more than 90 countries worldwide are coming together to show their support for a ceasefire in a Global Day of Action. World leaders must take note. The momentum for a ceasefire is becoming unstoppable – we urge those in power to take action, for the sake of the people of Gaza and for humanity itself.”


For media requests, please email or call 704 665 9743.

Spokespeople are available:

  • Meredith Slater, Director of Development for ActionAid USA
  • Riham Jafari, Coordinator of Advocacy and Communication for ActionAid Palestine

About ActionAid  

ActionAid is a global federation working with more than 15 million people living in more than 40 of the world’s poorest countries. We want to see a just, fair, and sustainable world in which everybody enjoys the right to a life of dignity and freedom from poverty and oppression. We work to achieve social justice and gender equality and to eradicate poverty.  

Support Palestinians in crisis

As the human rights of people in the occupied Palestinian territories continue to be abused, women and children are especially at risk. Gaza faces a dire lack of medical facilities, schools, and homes, as so many have been hit by Israeli airstrikes. ActionAid works in communities near the border with Israel that have been most directly affected by the violence. ActionAid's women-led response is supporting the most vulnerable and marginalized individuals and communities.