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“Beacon of Light”: Fellow Doctors Recall Dr. Hammam Alloh, Gaza Doctor Killed by Israeli Airstrike

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We speak with two physicians who knew Dr. Hammam Alloh, a Palestinian nephrologist at Gaza’s Al-Shifa Hospital who was killed Saturday in an Israeli airstrike. They recall him as a “committed physician, wonderful father” and “beacon of light.” He had refused to heed Israeli directives to evacuate in order to continue providing care to his patients. “He spent a decade learning how to serve his people,” says Dr. Tanya Haj-Hassan with Doctors Without Borders. “He wanted his children to be able to see a day when they had a free, just, durable, free life in Palestine, without occupation,” says Dr. Ben Thomson, a fellow nephrologist who worked with Dr. Alloh.

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Transcript
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to bring in another doctor into this conversation, as you talk about the doctor whose interview we are going to play in just a minute, Dr. Ben Thomson was also a friend and a colleague of Dr. Hammam Alloh. He’s a nephrologist in Toronto, where you are now, too.

Dr. Ben Thomson, can you also tell us about Dr. Hammam Alloh? We’re going to play the full interview in just a moment that we did with him just two weeks ago.

DR. BEN THOMSON: Thank you, Ms. Goodman.

I mean, Dr. Hammam Alloh, as my colleague from Médecins Sans Frontières said, was a incredible human being, a committed physician, wonderful father. When I was at his home in September in Gaza City, I was joking with him, because I said, “You’re such an optimist.” You know, he was absolutely convinced — he insisted that if the world knew what was happening in Gaza, that it would intervene and that it would end the suffering for people in Gaza.

Like so many doctors in Gaza over the last month, faced with horrible circumstances, he remained committed to his patients. He cared for them, despite everything that he faced. The very first interview he did, as he was speaking truth to the world about the horrors that he was experiencing in Gaza, his own home was bombed. Windows, the front door of his house blew off. He went to check on his children. He went to check on his father that lived with him. He put them in a room, and then he came back and finished the interview. And the very next day, he went to work. This was his level of commitment.

I am convinced that if he was here sitting and he was here talking to you, he would have been very clear what he wanted. You know, he was an optimist, yes, and he had good days and bad days over the last month. When we spoke every day, he would talk about how he was committed to developing education programs for today’s doctors and the doctors of tomorrow in Gaza. But he also had very difficult days, faced with the very difficult circumstances that he faced every day, seeing his colleagues being killed, working in hospitals with no water, no food, no electricity, knowing that his patients who required dialysis treatment three times a week to survive, knowing that they’d be dead within a week without electricity, all thousand of them throughout Gaza would be dead. Knowing that, he still went to work. And those good days where he talked to me about education, he also had bad days. And on those bad days, he would tell me — he was speaking of the horrors that he was seeing. He was experiencing war crimes. He was witnessing them. He would tell me he was experiencing a genocide of his own people. It was horrible.

You know, I think at this point politicians are embarrassing themselves by their inaction. He would have been very clear. He would have wanted — there’s things that he would have wanted that I can talk to you about. But, you know, I think we need to remember Dr. Hammam, like many physicians in Gaza, was incredibly committed to his patients —

AMY GOODMAN: How did he die, Dr. Thomson?

DR. BEN THOMSON: — a wonderful father, and he died too early.

AMY GOODMAN: How did he die?

DR. BEN THOMSON: He was hit in an airstrike. He was at his wife’s home. He was with his father, with his father-in-law and his brother-in-law. His wife and two children, who are 4 and 5 years old, were at his own home, so they survived. But while he was at his wife’s home, an Israeli airstrike on his home killed all of them in the home.

AMY GOODMAN: So, Dr. Thomson, if you can tell me about your own situation in Toronto? I mean, to say the least, that’s very different from Gaza. But you were suspended for a month after you and the hospital were threatened over your comments that you tweeted on X. Can you talk about this?

DR. BEN THOMSON: I think, like many people around the world, I have experienced bullying, harassment and other negative consequences to speaking out for Palestine. In my situation, I had death threats. I was suspended from the hospital. I had a difficult month. But the reality is, my worst day over the last month is nothing compared to — you know, the best day of anyone in the last month in Gaza is still worse than my worst day.

And the reality is, people like Dr. Hammam would want us to think about, you know: What do we need right now? Yes, I suffered death threats, but the reality is, Dr. Hammam was killed, and a couple hundred other healthcare professionals in Gaza have been killed. And it behooves us right now to think: What do we have to do?

We must have an immediate ceasefire. We must have rapid and unimpeded access to humanitarian aid. And, you know, speaking with Dr. Hammam at his house in September, he talked about the fact he wanted his children to be able to see a day when they had a free, just, durable, free life in Palestine without occupation. We spoke of this often. And I think it behooves us now, as an international community — yes, many of us have been threatened. The reality is much, much worse for our colleagues in Gaza. The reality is we absolutely need to have a ceasefire, humanitarian aid, and there must be a durable, peaceful, just solution for a free Palestine.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to bring Dr. Tanya Haj-Hassan back into the conversation — we’re having a little trouble with your Skype — and ask you to respond to what Israel is saying, that they are attacking the hospital because Hamas has used it as — underneath it, at least, or all around it — it is not exactly clear — as command and control.

DR. TANYA HAJ-HASSAN: You know, I get asked this question all the time. I got asked this question in 2014. The same accusations were made in 2008, 2009, 2014, 2021. These aren’t new accusations. It’s also not new that those accusations have not been substantiated.

I have worked in these hospitals. I can tell you what they are, with certainty. They are healthcare facilities caring for patients with limited resources as a consequence of a 16-year siege and with healthcare professionals who are the most dedicated doctors, nurses, paramedics, pharmacists that I have met in my entire life. And Dr. Hammam Alloh is the perfect example of that, as are Dr. Maisara and every single doctor who has been killed, and nurse and paramedic and microbiologist. I mean, over 200 healthcare providers have been killed to date, and they have been screaming for international protection. So I can tell you that they are functioning health facilities caring for patients.

And regardless of whether accusations of military activity around those hospitals are substantiated, it is an international — it would be considered a war crime to target them if they are functioning as a healthcare facility, and they are. That, I am confident of. I am also confident that I have never personally seen any evidence of military activity in and around these hospitals. And that is the most that I can say to this.

And I want to — I think that the important thing to remember is, we keep getting sucked into these arguments where we’re justifying these preposterous justifications for the violation of international law. And instead of constantly trying to defend something that’s completely — to defend against something that’s completely preposterous, I think we need to refocus on what is clear. What is clear is over 11,000 Gazans have been killed to date. Almost 200 Palestinians in the West Bank have been killed. Healthcare facilities are directly targeted, with intent. Ambulances are directly targeted, with intent. The entire infrastructure of a civilian population, everything that is needed, that is indispensable to their survival, from food to water to medical facilities to their shelter — everything has been targeted, intentionally targeted and destroyed. That is what we should be focusing on. There are also, you know, almost 5,000 children who have been killed, that we know of, but we don’t have statistics from the last 48 hours because they have completely destroyed the ability to even expose these atrocities.

And, you know, the last message that Dr. Hammam Alloh had sent, just a few hours before he was killed, to one of my colleagues, he said, “Your shouting means a lot to us. Please keep it up.” And I hope what Dr. Ben Thomson, what myself, what every humanitarian doctor or provider or human out there who is screaming about these atrocities, we paint this horrific picture, and I hope it inspires your viewers, the politicians everywhere to get up and respond to this avalanche of suffering with an avalanche of solidarity and action, because this is not a world that I want to live in. This is not a world that my colleagues want to live in. And this is not a world that we want to raise the next generation of children in. We have museums all around the world that remind us that this is not what we want for humanity. And this is our opportunity to assert that.

AMY GOODMAN: Dr. Haj-Hassan, there is a new acronym that was coined in Gaza over the last few weeks: WCNSF — “wounded child, no surviving family.” Can you explain?

DR. TANYA HAJ-HASSAN: Yeah. I mean, over 1,000 families have been killed. They’ve had at least two members of their families killed in the last month. Many families are completely wiped out, because these are — I don’t know much about weapons, but I can tell you they are very violent weapons that wipe out entire multistory residential buildings where families are sheltering, in seconds. And you have had so many families wiped off of the civil registry. Sometimes a child survives. And not infrequently, one person in the family survives. And so, it was happening so frequently that they had to coin a term for it, and sometimes even writing it on the bodies of the patients. Sometimes they even just write the word “unknown,” because it’s a child with no surviving family to even identify the child.

And, you know, it’s not just WCNSF. That is the acronym that has been coined by the Gazan medics. But there’s also WMNSF, “wounded mother, no surviving family”; WFNSF, “wounded father, no surviving family.” These aren’t acronyms that are used, but they are realities on the ground.

AMY GOODMAN: Doctor —

DR. TANYA HAJ-HASSAN: One of the last messages — so, I just want [inaudible] —

AMY GOODMAN: Dr. Tanya Haj-Hassan, I’m going to cut you off, but only so that we can hear this last interview that we did, the last interview with Hammam Alloh. I want to thank you so much for being with us, Dr. Tanya Haj-Hassan, pediatric intensive care physician with Doctors Without Borders. And I want to thank Dr. Ben Thomson, a friend and colleague of Dr. Hammam Alloh, who, again, was killed this weekend in an airstrike. The nephrologist in Toronto, Dr. Ben Thomson, traveled to Gaza twice a year since 2013. His charity is called Keys of Health. We’re going to break and then come back to hear Dr. Hammam Alloh’s last words. Stay with us.

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Next story from this daily show

“We’re Being Exterminated”: Hear One of Dr. Hammam Alloh’s Last Interviews from Gaza Before His Death

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