Peace and Security

Gaza: WHO chief calls for end to latest hospital siege

As bombardments by the Israeli military reportedly continued overnight across Gaza, along with ground incursions and heavy fighting, the head of the UN World Health Organization (WHO) issued an alert on Tuesday for staff and patients at besieged Al-Awda hospital in the north of the enclave.

“Medical staff inside the hospital reported an attack on 20 May, with snipers aiming at the building and an artillery rocket hitting the fifth floor,” Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on X.

Some 148 staff and 22 patients and their companions have remained “trapped inside” the hospital since Sunday, the WHO Director-General added, before issuing an appeal for their protection.

Evacuation order impact

According to the WHO, only around one third of Gaza’s 36 hospitals still function, leaving critical health care facilities “inaccessible” to patients and healthcare workers impacted by the violence or evacuation orders.


In the southern city of Rafah, Israeli military orders telling Gazans to move have affected more than 20 medical points, four hospitals and four primary healthcare centres, the UN health agency noted. 

In northern Gaza, meanwhile, 16 medical points have been impacted, as well as five primary healthcare centres and Kamal Adwan Hospital, in addition to Al-Awda Hospital.

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In a social media post on X on Sunday, WHO’s Tedros raised the alarm about reports of intense hostilities in the vicinity of Kamal Adwan Hospital, coupled with an influx of injured patients, despite the facility’s limited ability to treat them. 

At least 900,000 Gazans uprooted

In a related development, the UN aid coordination office, OCHA, reported that the ongoing Israeli military operation and evacuation orders have uprooted well over 900,000 in the last two weeks – some four in 10 Gazans.

This includes 812,000 people from Rafah and more than 100,000 others in northern Gaza, with hundreds of thousands experiencing dreadful living conditions.

“Humanitarian partners working to provide shelter to people in Gaza report that there are no tents and very few shelter items left for distribution,” OCHA said.

Camping on roads

“People displaced from Rafah are currently seeking shelter in Khan Younis and Deir al Balah on any open land available, including access roads and agricultural land, as well as in damaged buildings that have not been structurally assessed.”

To date, more than 75 per cent of the Gaza Strip – some 285 square kilometres – is under evacuation orders amid escalating hostilities, the UN agency said. “Under international humanitarian law, civilians – whether they move or stay – must be protected. Wherever they are in Gaza, their essential needs, including food, shelter, water and health, must be met.”

No let up in violence

The escalating fighting has severely disrupted nutrition support services in the north and south, the OCHA update continued, noting that access had been lost to more than 100 food distribution points in Rafah alone. 

Meanwhile, humanitarian partners working to provide water, sanitation and hygiene support in Gaza said that there are shortages of hygiene kits and water containers for households to collect and store water, which are critical for people who are forcibly displaced.

More generally, the desperate lack of basic services after more than seven months of war have fuelled severe acute malnutrition among Gazans, exacerbating already serious concerns about a “further surge” in communicable diseases and dangerous hunger levels, OCHA warned.



  1. Can someone clarify how many medical staff and patients are still trapped inside Al-Awda hospital? Are there any efforts being made for their evacuation?

    1. Yes, as per the WHO Director-General, there are 148 staff, 22 patients, and their companions currently trapped inside Al-Awda hospital. Efforts are underway for their protection and potential evacuation.

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