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Archbishop Welby condemns closure of Al-Ahli Hospital in Gaza, after Israeli warning

10 July 2024

DAWOUD ABO ALKAS

A ward in the hospital, which had been evacuated in haste

A ward in the hospital, which had been evacuated in haste

THE forced closure and evacuation of the Anglican Al-Ahli hospital in Gaza, reported by the diocese of Jerusalem on Monday, has been condemned by the Archbishop of Canterbury.

“In the face of intense Israeli bombardment, this closure puts injured and sick people in even greater danger,” the Archbishop wrote on social media on Monday. “I join Archbishop Hosam’s appeal to the Israel Defense Forces [IDF] to allow the hospital to continue its sacred and courageous work of caring for people in desperate need. To relieve the immense suffering in the Holy Land, I continue to pray and call for a ceasefire, the release of hostages, and for unfettered aid for the people of Gaza.”

In its statement on Monday, the diocese said that, “in the midst of escalating military activity in the Old Gaza City area . . . we are sorry to report that the Al Ahli Arab Anglican hospital has been compelled to close by the Israeli army.”

The director of the hospital, Dr Suhaila Tarazi, had reported that, on Sunday evening, “a large amount of firing from drones occurred in the immediate vicinity of the hospital. This was immediately followed by an IDF announcement that the area had been declared a Red Zone, and everyone should immediately evacuate all the buildings, including everyone in the hospital. As a result, all vulnerable people sheltering in the hospital grounds, the staff, and patients had to leave the safety of the grounds of the hospital. . .

“To our great dismay, our hospital is now out of operation at a time when its services are in very significant demand and where injured and sick people have few other options.”

The statement also said that one of its ambulances had been “fired at en route to the hospital”.

The Anglican Bishop in Jerusalem, Dr Hosam Naoum, protested against the closure “in the strongest possible terms. In a time of warfare and great suffering, it is essential that emergency health-care services are maintained to treat the injured and the dying.”

In a statement to Reuters reported on Tuesday, the Israeli military said that it had called on civilians in specific areas of Gaza City to move out, to minimise the risk to them, but that it had told Palestinian health officials and the international community that there was no need to evacuate hospitals in the area.

On Wednesday, the Dean of St George’s College, Jerusalem, the Very Revd Canon Richard Sewell, reported online that “following reassurances from the Israeli army, Al Ahli hospital will be able to open again tomorrow. Also the driver of our ambulance which was hit by a missile has been found alive and uninjured.”

Having warned on Wednesday that the area around the hospital remained “terrifyingly dangerous”, he wrote on Thursday that the plan to re-open had been “jeopardised” by a new Israel army order to evacuate Gaza City.

The UN humanitarian agency OCHA warned that the order would “only fuel mass suffering for Palestinian families, many of whom have been displaced again and again.” Evacuation orders were “forcing the humanitarian community to reset their aid operations over and over again,” the statement said.

A report by Al-Jazeera said that Gaza’s Interior Ministry had called on residents in Gaza City to refrain from the evacuation orders, “saying the instructions are a part of the Israeli army’s psychological warfare against Palestinians”. The Israeli government has said that it is pursuing Hamas fighters .

A woman told the agency that there were bodies of Palestinians in the streets, shot by Israeli snipers.

The Guardian reported being told by civilians that “there was no refuge in war-stricken Gaza and that they lacked confidence in the safe corridors set by Israel. Residents said they also feared that if they left they would not be able to take belongings or return.”

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