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Dr Ahmed Muhanna

The Palestinian health system targetted by Israel, but crucial part of the resistance against genocide

Statement in Solidarity with Palestinian Health Workers in Gaza and the West Bank

The People's Health Movement (PHM), a global network of grassroots health activists, academics, civil society organizations, and social movements, stands in solidarity with Palestinian health workers that are under attack in this relentless genocidal campaign against the Palestinian people. The attacks on hospitals, ambulances and health care personnel are a key tactic in the genocidal war on Palestinians in Gaza. The total destruction of the healthcare system is an intentional part of the Israeli apartheid regime’s project of ethnic cleansing against the Palestinian people.

From the start of this genocidal military campaign the Israeli occupation Forces (IOF) have deliberately targeted Gaza’s health system in an attempt to wipe it out. Their aim was to make Gaza unlivable for Palestinians. More than six months ago, on December 7, 2023, Tlaleng Mofokeng, UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Health said Israel has declared an “unrelenting war” on the health system in Gaza 1. One month later, a group of international experts confirmed that “the wide efforts to disable and destroy ´once and for ever the health care system since the beginning of this Israeli assault, by intentional destruction whole or in part of structures, targeted attacks to personnel into the wards, killings, and arrests of personnel are unambiguous examples of the genocidal policies.” 2 More than eight months into the war, the total collapse of the health system in Gaza is imminent.

The IOF has also increased attacks on health in the West Bank since October 7th, 2023. According to the WHO 480 attacks against the healthcare system have been registered in the West Bank, especially in the Northern governorates of Tulkarem and Jenin 3. This is nothing new. Palestinian healthcare workers and infrastructure have been targeted by Israel for decades. For example, between 2019 and 2021 there were 463 Palestinian health workers injured by IOF violence (166 in West Bank and 297 in Gaza)4.

According to Dr. Mohamed Salha, an orthopedic surgeon and Al Awda hospital’s interim director, the systematic and deliberate targeting of health workers has a clear goal: “In the end, the first target of the IOF was the Gazan health system. They want to make the Gaza Strip completely unliveable, and you do this by attacking the health system. Without health workers and services people will not stay. They want to push the people to the South. If you look at the map of operational hospitals, most of them are in the South, in the North Al Awda is the only one left.”5

In the past eight months health workers in Gaza have been the victims of intimidation, arbitrary arrest and detention, torture, and murder. According to Médecins sans Frontières at least 493 health workers have been murdered between October 7, 2023 and May 31, 2024.6 And according to a new Reuters investigation, 55 specialist doctors have been killed during the war, amounting to 4% of the specialists in Gaza. The health system impacts of these losses will be far deeper than their immediate effect on service provision, as the killing of one specialist can cripple certain hospital services in entire areas for years. According to healthcare specialists, it will take decades to rebuild the Gazan health system.7

Nearly 10,000 Palestinians are currently held in Israeli prisons, including about 3500 in so-called “administrative detention,” meaning they are being imprisoned indefinitely without charge 8. The number of Gazan healthcare workers in detention alone exceeds the total number of Israelis being held in Gaza. At least 214 healthcare workers have been detained by Israeli forces while on duty since October 7, with at least 128 health workers remaining in detention as of May 30, 2024.9 One of them is Dr. Ahmed Muhanna, part of the Al Awda Health and Community Association (AWDA), a member of the PHM network. On Sunday, December 17, 2023, Israeli soldiers raided the Al Awda hospital in Jabalia, Northern Gaza. During the raid they detained 21 health workers, including Dr. Muhanna, the hospital’s director, who is still being held in the notorious Israeli Naqab desert-prison 10. Relatives of Dr. Muhanna have struggled to receive adequate information on his status and condition since his detention.

The same United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Right to Health, Tlaleng Mofokent, denounced these arbitrary arrests and detentions after the shocking death of Dr. Al Bursh, head of the orthopedic department of Al Shifa hospital, in the Israeli Ofer prison. “He was detained while undertaking his duty to patients and caring for them according to the oath he took as a medical practitioner,” 11 said the Special Rapporteur on May 16, 2024. “He died for trying to protect the rights to life and health of his patients.” Dr. Al Bursh was arrested while performing surgery in the Al Awda hospital in Jabalia, during the same Israeli siege that resulted in the arrest and ongoing detention of Dr. Ahmed Muhanna.

The total collapse of the healthcare system - hospitals and primary health care services -  in Gaza is imminent. With Israel deliberately denying access to aid convoys carrying medicine and medical equipment, including fuel that is essential to keep health facilities operational, the situation in Gaza has become “an overwhelming disaster”, according to Dr. Rik Peeperkorn, the WHO representative in Palestine.

We know that tens of thousands of Palestinians in Gaza have been killed by Israel’s military violence since October 7, 2023. But, for now, it remains unclear how many civilians have died in Gaza as a result of inadequate access to proper healthcare, because of the deliberate blocking of medical supplies to the people of Gaza, and due to Israel’s callous refusal to permit the medical evacuation of thousands of critically-injured Palestinians and thousands more suffering from chronic diseases like cancer and diabetes.

In solidarity with Palestinian health workers, the People’s Health Movement calls for:

  • an immediate and permanent ceasefire to end the genocidal war waged by the Israeli occupation against the Palestinian people
  • the immediate release of all health workers from the Gaza Strip and the West Bank that were deprived of their liberty,
  • the rebuilding of the entire health system in Gaza and its civilian infrastructure so that rehabilitation of the population can begin. Israel to be held accountable for violations of international humanitarian law regarding the protection of healthcare personnel. 
  • the immediate arrest of PM Netanyahu, War Minister Gallant and all others that bear responsibility for the crimesagainst humanity 
  • and the intensification of the Boycott, Disinvestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel until the end of the occupation

PHM will campaign actively for these demands through our country circles and thematic groups and work to strengthen our alliances with other social movements making similar demands. We will also continue our specific campaign to  release  Dr. Ahmed Muhanna. In the past 8 months, PHM and allies have gathered over 74,500 signatures from 40 countries. PHM asks all allies, members, associates to intensify this campaign by:

  • Sharing the communication material below on social media, tagging local politicians
  • Put pressure on Israel in all ways possible to release all unlawfully detained Palestinian health workers



3. Impact_of_health_attacks_in_the_WestBank_28_May.pdf ( 
5. PHM talked with Dr. Salha on June 4, 2024 
7. Gaza’s doctors were building a health system. Then came war. ( 
8. Statistics | Addameer  
9. Sitrep_-_issue_32c.pdf (  
11. UN expert horrified by death of Gazan orthopedic surgeon in Israeli detention | OHCHR