IDF Fires on Ambulance in Gaza and Arrests Medical Staff

by | Dec 13, 2023

IDF Fires on Ambulance in Gaza and Arrests Medical Staff

by | Dec 13, 2023

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International Aid organizations report their staff attempting to provide medical assistance to the people of Gaza are facing abuse from the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF). The IDF fired on a World Health Organization (WHO) medical convo. A senior doctor at a hospital in northern Gaza says dozens of medical staff have been arrested. 

According to a WHO statement, “On 9 December, a WHO team, in collaboration with the Palestine Red Crescent Society (PRCS) and the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), and with support from the UN Department of Safety and Security (UNDSS), completed a high-risk mission to Al-Ahli Hospital in Gaza City to deliver medical supplies, assess the situation in the hospital, and transfer critically-injured patients to a hospital in the south.”

“On the way north, the UN convoy was inspected at the Wadi Gaza checkpoint, and ambulance crew members had to leave the vehicles for identification.” The statement continues, “Two PRCS staff were detained for over an hour. WHO staff saw one of them being made to kneel at gunpoint and then taken out of sight, where he was reportedly harassed, beaten, stripped and searched.”

“As the mission entered Gaza City, the aid truck carrying the medical supplies and one of the ambulances were hit by bullets,” the WHO report of the incident says. 

The convoy faced additional harassment as it attempted to move patients to south Gaza. “On the way back towards southern Gaza, with the patients from Al-Ahli Hospital on board, the convoy was again stopped at the Wadi Gaza checkpoint, where PRCS staff and most of the patients had to leave the ambulances for security checks.” The WHO statement adds. “One of the same two PRCS staff temporarily detained earlier on the way in was taken for interrogation a second time.”

The IDF treatment of an aid convoy may have led to the death of one of the patients. “PRCS reported afterwards that during the transfer process, one of the injured patients died, as a result of his untreated wounds,” the WHO said. 

Another hospital in north Gaza had its medical staff arrested by the IDF. Dr. Hossam Abu-Safia, the head of pediatrics at Kamal Adwan Hospital, told CNN that 70 medical staff, including the director of the hospital, have been detained in an unknown location by Israeli soldiers. 

Abu-Safia said the hospital was barely functioning. “[The IDF] asked us to gather in only one section or building [and] close all the doors and windows, and not to be near doors or windows,” he said. Adding the Israeli soldiers only allowed five doctors to remain at the hospital.

The WHO statement described an equally troubling situation at the Al-Ahli Hospital. The state of Al-Ahli Hospital was described by WHO staff as “utter chaos and a humanitarian disaster zone.” They added, “It is extremely congested with many displaced people and over 200 patients, while it only has enough resources to support 40 beds – half of its original bed capacity.” The press release continues, “The building has sustained substantial damage because of the hostilities.”

Mohammed Salha, a monitoring manager at the al-Awda hospital, spoke with Jacobin about the deplorable conditions at the facility. Salha says the hospital is surrounded by snipers who have killed three staff members. He said there was limited food and water because Israel bombed the water tanks. 

Al-Awda Hospital has been under total siege for a week, Doctors Without Borders said. Salha explained the siege came without warning. 

Doctors speaking with the WHO staff said, “The situation is “beyond control” as they face shortages of fuel, oxygen, and essential medical supplies, as well as a lack of food and water for patients and themselves.” Adding, “Health staff capacity is minimal, nursing care is extremely limited, and the hospital is relying heavily on volunteers.”

The WHO representative in Gaza, Richard Peeperkorn, explained the Israeli military operations in Gaza have decimated the healthcare facilities. “In just 66 days the health system has gone from 36 functional hospitals to 11 partially functional hospitals – so, one in the north and 10 in the south,” he said.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said there are “signals of epidemic diseases including bloody diarrhea and jaundice.” He added that Gaza’s health system “is on its knees and collapsing.”

About Kyle Anzalone

Kyle Anzalone is news editor of the Libertarian Institute, opinion editor of and co-host of Conflicts of Interest with Will Porter and Connor Freeman.

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