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Blast in Gaza devastates al-Ahli Arab Hospital, shocks international community

The Rt. Rev’d Hosam Naoum, Archbishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem (centre), leads a press conference earlier today, surrounded by other faith leaders from the Holy Land. (photo: Facebook)

October 18, 2023

By Janice Biehn

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Yesterday, the al-Ahli Arab Hospital in Gaza suffered a deadly blast, killing hundreds of civilians, patients, staff as well as people seeking safety in the hospital’s courtyard. Today has been declared by the Episcopal (Anglican) Diocese of Jerusalem, who operates the hospital, as a national day of mourning, supported by other faith leaders in the Holy Land.  PWRDF stands in solidarity with the Diocese of Jerusalem in mourning these deaths and injuries to innocent people.  

PWRDF is a long-time partner of the al-Ahli Arab Hospital. On Tuesday, October 10, PWRDF announced an allocation of $30,000 to support additional staff needs during the war. Then on Sunday, a bomb strike seriously damaged the Ultrasound and Mammography wards on the upper floors. The funds were being transferred yesterday as news of the most recent attack was unfolding. 

“The news of hundreds and hundreds of casualties is horrific and fills all of us with sadness for a hospital established to be compassionate and responsive to all who entered its doors,” says Will Postma, Executive Director of PWRDF. “I am personally grieving this tragedy and yearning for humanitarian care at this important time. I visited al-Ahli in 2019 and was so impressed by the professionalism and care of all its staff. Al-Ahli Hospital has been caring for so many, providing a critical service for Palestinians in Gaza. Its cancer services, its care for children who have had to drink unsafe water, for young people who have suffered from casualties.” 

Reaction yesterday from aid agencies and the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem was unequivocal in its support for protecting civilians and hospitals during war. In a statement, the diocese said: “In the strongest terms, the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem condemns this atrocious attack that has transpired in the heart of Gaza… Hospitals, by tenets of international humanitarian law, are sanctuaries, yet this assault has transgressed those sacred boundaries.” 

Today, the Primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, Archbishop Linda Nicholls, and the National Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada, the Rev. Susan Johnson shared the statement and called on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and other politicians to open a humanitarian corridor.  

“We urge everyone to speak up for an immediate cessation of hostilities and the opening of a humanitarian corridor to allow potable water, food, medical care and more to reach those in need. Canada must use all means at its disposal to advocate for the respect of international law and the protection of human rights as it has done in the past. The time to speak is now!” 

In a press briefing today, Michael Ryan, Executive Director of WHO’s Health Emergencies Programme, reiterated that an attack on health care workers is a violation of international law.  

The Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Rev. Justin Welby, said “The bloodshed, slaughter and suffering of innocent people on all sides must stop. … What we know for certain is that this violence will not secure for the people of the Holy Land the future they deserve.”    

The initial $30,000 that PWRDF has transferred to the hospital will be used in part for staffing, which is urgently needed, as well as what the hospital deems urgent and necessary. While a humanitarian corridor has not yet been opened for lifesaving supplies, donations to PWRDF for the al-Ahli Arab Hospital will be readily accessible when needed.  

How you can help 

Download and share this Gaza Emergency Appeal flyer.

To support the al-Ahli Arab Hospital during this time of crisis, please donate online to our Gaza Hospital Emergency Appeal. You can also donate by phone at 416-822-9083 (or leave a message toll-free at 1-866-308-7973 and we will return your call) or by mail. Send your cheque to PWRDF, 80 Hayden Street, 3rd Floor, Toronto, ON, Canada, M4Y 3G2. Please indicate “Gaza Hospital” in the memo field.