You turn to us for voices you won't hear anywhere else.

Sign up for Democracy Now!'s Daily Digest to get our latest headlines and stories delivered to your inbox every day.

Dr. Adam Hamawy Describes Desperate Conditions at Gaza Hospitals Amid Attacks & Lack of Supplies

Media Options

When a group of volunteer doctors with the Palestinian American Medical Association traveled to Gaza last month, they were prepared to treat some of the most horrific injuries caused by Israel’s relentless assault on civilians in Gaza. But they were not prepared to be stranded under the bombardment for over a week after the Israeli military seized and closed the border crossing into the southern end of the besieged region, preventing people and supplies from getting in or out. Dr. Adam Hamawy, a plastic surgeon and Army veteran from New Jersey, has now evacuated Gaza after he was trapped at European Hospital in Khan Younis with dwindling supplies. Hamawy, who previously treated Illinois Senator Tammy Duckworth for a life-threatening injury while both were in the Army, was offered evacuation along with another group of American doctors days earlier, but refused to leave without first securing the release of his entire volunteer medical team. He now emphasizes that he and his colleagues must be immediately replaced with additional humanitarian relief workers. “It was never a condition for our exit to have other people come in — it was an expectation,” he says. “A hospital cannot run on just a few doctors alone. It also needs nurses, it needs staff.”

Related Story

StoryJun 11, 2024Doctor Just Back from Gaza: The Health System Has Totally Collapsed Due to Israel’s Genocidal War
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!,, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman.

We turn now to look more at Gaza and Israel’s continuing targeting of medical facilities. Israeli forces have stormed Al-Awda Hospital in the Jabaliya refugee camp, forcing medical staff to abandon the hospital. The World Health Organization has issued an urgent appeal for Israel to protect medical staff and patients at the hospital. On Tuesday, three Israeli missiles struck the emergency department at Kamal Adwan Hospital in northern Gaza.

We’re joined now by Dr. Adam Hamawy. He’s a plastic surgeon, Army veteran from New Jersey, who just left Gaza, where he took part in a volunteer mission with the Palestinian American Medical Association. Dr. Hamawy and other volunteer doctors were trapped last week at European Hospital in Khan Younis due to Israel’s military offensive. Twenty years ago, in 2004, he saved the life of future Senator Tammy Duckworth of Illinois after she was struck by a rocket-propelled grenade while serving in the Iraq War, losing both her legs and partial use of her right arm. Dr. Hamawy is joining us now from Cairo, Egypt.

I’m glad we’re able to speak to you again, Dr. Hamawy. Can you talk about what happened in European Hospital, your response to what’s happening at Al-Awda Hospital, and how you made your way out?

DR. ADAM HAMAWY: Right now at the European Hospital, after we’ve left, people are afraid and are leaving. Even before we were preparing to go, in anticipation, staff members, people who lived inside the hospital for months now, doctors have been making their way out of the region and out from the hospital, after they’ve already evacuated other locations. Many of the physicians that I worked with and the staff had come here after working at places like Shifa and Nasser hospitals, and they expect the same to happen here, now that they’ve lost that sense of security of having an international presence there.

AMY GOODMAN: So, talk about your work there, the children and others who you saw, and why you decided to leave, and also Senator Duckworth’s help in this, and what you were demanding, because there was a time there that you were saying you would not leave Gaza unless you knew you could be replaced.

DR. ADAM HAMAWY: I think what we wanted, we were asking that we wanted a safe corridor for us to leave and for us to be replaced. That was an ask that we’ve always made. We came with the expectation that we would leave at some point and that other teams would come in. It was never a condition of our exit to have other people come in. It was an expectation. We did everything that we could do while we were there. We ran out of supplies. We ran out of support, as more and more people were leaving. And in the end, we could only do so much without having that replacement team come in.

Our team wanted to leave together, just like we came in together. When we were given the opportunity to leave as individual nations and only the Americans were given permission to leave, that was something that was unexpected. We never saw ourselves as coming in as individuals with certain passports. We came in as a team of humanitarian medical workers that are trying to help the people in Gaza. And when I stayed, I stayed because I would not leave my team behind, and the same with my colleagues who stayed with me. We would not leave until we were all guaranteed that safe exit. And so, when we were finally given that opportunity to go, we left.

And we still ask that the international community continue to, like, support the people. I’ve heard that President Biden has committed to the entry of humanitarian aid. And I would hope that, as a nation, we would stand by these commitments and that we would do everything that we can to replace us as soon as possible.

AMY GOODMAN: So, Dr. Hamawy, you wrote a letter to President Biden on May 19th, which Senator Tammy Duckworth delivered to the White House on the 20th, describing your experience and what you witnessed on the ground. In that letter, you wrote, “I have never in my career witnessed the level of atrocities and targeting of my medical colleagues as I have in Gaza.” Do you know who got that letter at the White House? Have you gotten a response from the president? And if you could describe in more detail what it was that you were referencing on the ground in Gaza?

DR. ADAM HAMAWY: I know the letter was delivered. I don’t know who — I did not receive a direct response from the president. But I know that he did receive it, and I’ve heard about that commitment.

What I was referring to is the targeting of doctors and nurses. While I was there, one of the doctors and nurses who lived close to the hospital were killed when their house was struck, as well as their family members, who were injured, killed and wounded. I worked with doctors who had fled other hospitals, like I said. They were targeted. I’ve talked to doctors and nurses who were taken as prisoners, interrogated and tortured. I know — I’ve visited other hospitals. I personally went to Nasser Hospital and saw what had happened there. I walked through the halls of an empty hospital that was vandalized, that had bloodstains on the walls and on the chairs and on the desks. That is what I’m referring to.

AMY GOODMAN: A new report by The Washington Post documents at least 90 cases of Israeli forces attacking hospitals in Gaza since October 7th, including on Al-Shifa Hospital, Nasser Hospital in Khan Younis. Of the 36 hospitals in Gaza attacked — tracked by the U.N. humanitarian office, only four have not been reported damaged by munitions. Can you talk about what it means to leave a hospital, what you were hearing from doctors who moved from other hospitals to where you were and then were moving on, and at the same time, this mass of humanity making their way away from Rafah, as they were told to leave, though they had — that was sometimes the third and fourth relocation of their families?

DR. ADAM HAMAWY: I worked with a nurse that I first met when I arrived there, for several days, and then I did not see him for about a week. When I saw him, I asked him where he had been. And he was relocating his family. His family lived in Rafah. They were given an evacuation order. And they went to one of the designated zones of safety, which was along the shore — basically, a desert. It’s got sand everywhere. It has no water. It has no electricity. It has no food and no shelter. They basically had bags that they carried with them. So, they did not have tents to set up. His wife and his two children — he had two girls, one that is 2 years old and one that is 3 months old. He had to try to get water for them. He went to a water station, where he stood for approximately eight hours, he described to me, before he was able to fill a jug of nondrinkable water. But that is what they used to drink. And this is an example of just one family. He came back to the hospital. He looked exhausted. He looked dehydrated. He broke down and cried while I spoke to him. And he spent two days in the hospital, then went back to his family. And he’s caught between trying to give aid, because, you know, his services are essential — a hospital cannot run on just a few doctors alone; it also needs nurses, it needs staff, and he was one of those essential staff — but he also had a family that he had to take care of. This is what one person is going through.

The hospital is emptying out, because many of them have done this several times. And the fear that they have is that as they leave — they’re taking care of people because they see themselves as the patients. They see their families. And many of them, almost all of them, have lost someone. So, when they’re taking care of the patients, they’re taking care of their families, they’re taking care of their neighbors, and they expect to be taken care of the same way when they get hurt, as well. And so, they are faced with this choice that, you know, is undescribable. How do you make that decision? And when we had to leave, we were faced with this choice, that is only a small — you know, it’s very small compared to what they’re facing. We had to leave our patients, just like they’re leaving their patients. And the hope is that this would end and they could all come back, resume a life that is a small semblance of normal, be able to take care of people, because that’s what they do, and to be able to take care of their families, as well.

AMY GOODMAN: Dr. Adam Hamawy, we thank you for spending this time with us. We have 10 seconds. What final message do you have as you’ve left Gaza and head back to New Jersey, where you work as a plastic surgeon and are an Army veteran?

DR. ADAM HAMAWY: Us leaving the hospital is not the end. We have to continue to try to help. There’s many people left behind, and we can’t leave them alone.

AMY GOODMAN: Dr. Adam Hamawy, we thank you so much for being with us. He has just evacuated from Gaza on Tuesday, where he had been volunteering with the Palestinian American Medical Association at European Hospital in Khan Younis, had been trapped on site along with other international medical workers, after Israel seized the Rafah crossing between Gaza and Egypt two weeks ago.

Next up, we speak with filmmaker Yance Ford about his new documentary, Power, about American policing. Back in 20 seconds.

The original content of this program is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License. Please attribute legal copies of this work to Some of the work(s) that this program incorporates, however, may be separately licensed. For further information or additional permissions, contact us.

Next story from this daily show

“Power”: Yance Ford on His New Documentary & Why “Violence Is Part and Parcel” of U.S. Policing

Non-commercial news needs your support

We rely on contributions from our viewers and listeners to do our work.
Please do your part today.
Make a donation