October 25, 2023- Posted in Diocese of Jerusalem, Events, Gaza, Healthcare, Israel, Palestine

The famous, friendly arch of Ahli Hospital after Oct 17 blast


October 25, 2023 – On October 7th, a sudden outbreak of conflict in the Holy Land sent shockwaves around the world, resulting in a significant loss of life, injuries, and forced displacements. Since the onset of the Israel-Hamas conflict, the number of those affected has sharply risen, reaching into the tens of thousands due to the significant escalation of hostilities. Among the casualties, innocent civilians, particularly women and children, have become ensnared in the deadly crossfire. Gaza became ground zero for a humanitarian crisis of epic proportions when the region’s supply of food, fuel, electricity, humanitarian aid, and even water was cut off.

On October 14, we learned that Ahli’s Cancer Diagnostic Center was struck by rocket fire, damaging the top two floors of the Ultrasound and Mammography Units and wounding four members of the staff, it became clear that no place in Gaza was safe. Tragically, three days later on October 17, Ahli’s courtyard took a direct missile hit, causing the deaths and injuries of hundreds of civilians taking refuge there, many of them children.

The attack that claimed so many civilian lives occurred on the same day that Archbishop Hosam Naoum, along with the Patriarchs and Heads of 13 Churches, had set apart as a day of global fasting and prayer for peace and reconciliation in the Holy Land.

On Friday, October 20, AFEDJ staff and Trustees gathered together in Washington D.C. and met with Archbishop Hosam on a Zoom call where we received a status update on Ahli Hospital and the damage it has suffered. The Archbishop confirmed that damage from the October 17 incident was largely concentrated in the area of Ahli’s courtyard. Though the surrounding buildings and chapel suffered some infrastructure damage, no buildings collapsed, and no staff or patients were killed. The hospital force-closed immediately, and all existing patients were evacuated to nearby hospitals.

Two days later, after the bombing of nearby St. Porphyrius Orthodox Church in Gaza City, the dedicated doctors and staff of Ahli Hospital returned and partially reopened the hospital’s operating theater to minister to those blast victims most critically in need. Their unwavering commitment reflects the resilience of Ahli Hospital staff, and reaffirms its healing mission. Since then, they’ve been working round-the-clock for operational stability despite limited critical resources and the worsening shortage of medical supplies. Full details may be found below.

The impact of these distressing events is not limited to Gaza alone; it extends throughout the entirety of the Diocese of Jerusalem. All the institutions that we serve have felt the repercussions, either directly or indirectly. Some have suffered closures for safety or accessibility reasons, others are operating at reduced capacity, and a few are facing increased demand for vital services and supplies. The Diocese has never needed your help more than it does right now.

The ongoing escalation in Gaza is resulting in thousands of casualties. According to the situation report from the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem, as of 3pm on October 24, 5,700 Palestinians have been killed and 16,000+ injured; the majority of those are women and children. There are an estimated 1.4 million internally displaced persons (IDPs) currently in Gaza. 4% of Gaza’s hospitals are non-functioning and 65% of primary healthcare centers are closed. 24 hospitals are in the evacuation zone. The remaining hospitals are operating at 150% or more of their capacities. Hospitals are on the brink of collapse due to shortages of medications, equipment, staff, energy sources, etc.. The destruction of hospitals and health facilities have resulted in the death of thousands and have deprived the wounded of essential life-saving medical interventions.

Ahli’s staff is currently maintaining an around-the-clock presence at the hospital, providing urgent medical care for those physically injured, with special attention to children who have been significantly traumatized by the violence. Ahli has received elective cases referred by other hospitals that have been overwhelmed beyond reasonable capacity with thousands of injured patients. The Burn Care unit has received hundreds of children with severe burns.

The two air strikes that hit the hospital caused severe damage to the hospital’s ambulance, medical equipment, and diagnostic machines (ultrasound, mammography, ventilation system, an operating theater table, and anesthesia machine). There is also damage to the infrastructure of some of the hospital departments including the diagnostic center, the ventilation system, the ultrasound room, the mammography room, the administration and management offices, the hospital entrance and courtyard, the hospital chapel, the hospital parking area, many windows, the exterior arch, etc.). Moreover, four of the hospital staff who were wounded needed operational surgeries, and some staff lost their homes.

Over the past three weeks, the hospital has provided treatment and medical interventions to thousands of wounded, which consumed much of the hospital’s existing stock of medicine, supplies, fuel, and other critical resources. Thousands of people need psychosocial support to work through trauma. Ahli needs new medical equipment and devices to replace what has been damaged. Supplies are needed for rehabilitation care, prolonged treatment for the burned and wounded, hygiene kits, food and drinking water for patients, staff, and their families. Additional doctors, nurses, and support staff are needed for the round-the-clock shifts. Also needed: renovation of the severely damaged departments, rooms and infrastructure, and a new ambulance to replace the damaged one.

Despite the challenges and damage, staff members continue to provide urgent medical care for those physically injured and traumatized. Currently, the surgical team deals mostly with injuries and trauma including abdominal, bone, chest, and soft tissue injuries. Ahli Hospital is receiving hundreds of people, particularly children, at the physical rehabilitation department and expects to receive thousands more within the coming weeks with severe wounds and broken bones. Moreover, Ahli continues to receive new pediatric patients affected by inadequate hygiene, partly because of large amounts of refuse not collected, lack of potable drinking water, and food shortages. As a result, the children present with chest infections, diarrhea, rashes, and scabies. Such admissions have averaged 150 cases per day. Ahli has also opened its doors to family members of the wounded who have no other place to go. The Hospital has become their refuge of last resort.

A gift to AFEDJ earmarked for “where the need is greatest” grants the diocese the flexibility and agility needed to respond swiftly to evolving needs and emerging crises. Your support is the lifeline for all of the Diocese of Jerusalem’s humanitarian institutions, providing vital assistance and hope to those in need across the Holy Land—please stand with us today in supporting this crucial mission.

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ABOUT AHLI HOSPITAL Founded in 1882, Ahli was a Baptist Medical Mission from 1954 to 1982, at which time operations were taken over by the Anglican Diocese of Jerusalem (1982-present). Ahli Arab Hospital is the oldest hospital and the only Christian hospital in Gaza. A humanitarian organization of the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem in the center of Gaza City, Ahli is a haven of peace and hope in one of the world’s most troubled areas. Ahli adopts a rights-based approach and provides healthcare regardless of faith, gender, social class or political affiliation. In Arabic, its name means “The Arab People’s Hospital.”

Much more than “just a hospital,” Ahli is a community resource. People from all backgrounds seek Ahli for refuge. When Gazans are desperate for care, sanctuary, aid, or even help with purchasing school supplies for their children, they turn to Ahli knowing that they will be greeted with compassion and empathy. Ahli Hospital extends their ministry of healing beyond their doors, educating and empowering women, providing free transportation for the poor to receive care, and psychosocial support for traumatized children affected by war on the border towns. Exemplifying what it means to “live the Gospel,” Ahli is a sacred sanctuary, a beacon of hope, and a pillar of the community. Ahli is deeply respected throughout Gaza for the compassion, attention, and care they offer to Gaza’s most vulnerable.

ABOUT AFEDJ: Founded in 1988 at the time of the first Intifada, American Friends of the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem (AFEDJ) is dedicated to raising financial support for the diocese’s humanitarian ministries – schools, hospitals, and centers for children with disabilities – in Palestine, Israel, Jordan, and Lebanon and raising awareness about these powerful examples of Christian Witness in the Holy Land. A nonpolitical, nonsectarian 501(c)3 organization, AFEDJ’s mission is to transform the lives of vulnerable and displaced people in the region. The values of equity, justice, and respect for the dignity of all are at the heart of their efforts. Learn more at www.afedj.org

Press Contact: Diana Branton, Director of Communications | American Friends of the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem | dbranton@afedj.org