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Remembering Gazan Dr. Hammam Alloh, killed by an Israeli airstrike

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Israeli attacks have killed more than 200 health care workers in Gaza since the start of the war, according to Gaza's Ministry of Health. It says another 215 health workers have been wounded. And those left behind say there is little time to mourn the dead. In that spirit, one doctor shared memories about his slain colleague. The man who died was named Hammam Alloh, and NPR's Vanessa Romo has this remembrance.

VANESSA ROMO, BYLINE: Dr. Hammam Alloh hadn't left Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City for days. Before it was entered by Israeli troops, fighting near the hospital made it incredibly dangerous to leave, and the deluge of wounded people kept doctors, nurses and other medical personnel working around the clock, often for a week or more at a time. On November 11, Alloh left the hospital to see his family. By then, the 36-year-old kidney specialist had seen myriad horrors trying to save the lives of others. But on that Saturday, he lost his own.

TAREK LOUBANI: Every one of these doctors who stayed behind - you know, these men and women should be recognized for their heroism.

ROMO: That's Tarek Loubani, a Canadian emergency room doctor. He's also of Palestinian origin and a longtime friend of Alloh. The two met in 2012, when Alloh was still in medical school and Loubani traveled to Gaza on a training mission with a group of Canadian physicians. They stayed in touch and got closer over the last decade, meeting up whenever Loubani traveled back to Gaza. This is how he describes Alloh back in the early days of their friendship.

LOUBANI: He was a young, bright-eyed, bushy-tailed medical student who just wanted, more than anything, to help the people around him - such a dedicated human being.

ROMO: Before his death, Alloh regularly updated the press about the ghastly conditions at Shifa. One of his last interviews was with the program "Democracy Now!" on October 31, just 11 days before a missile struck his family home, killing Alloh, his father and several other relatives. When the host of the show asked Alloh why he refused to heed Israel's demands to evacuate the hospital, here's what he said.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "DEMOCRACY NOW!")

HAMMAM ALLOH: You think I went to medical school and for my postgraduate degrees for a total of 14 years so I think only about my life and not my patients?

ROMO: The last time Loubani and Alloh spoke was on October 8, the day after Hamas launched the attack that killed 1,200 people in Israel, igniting the latest war. Israel says its offensive is aimed at destroying Hamas and rescuing hostages, and that Hamas has been operating inside hospitals or in tunnels underneath them. During Loubani and Alloh's brief exchange, Loubani told Alloh to stay safe.

LOUBANI: And I promised him that if anything happened, that we would take care of his family. You know, that's like - it's not just that I lost my friend. The Palestinians lost their future.

ROMO: Alloh, Loubani explained, was spearheading a new kidney treatment facility in Gaza. Now that he's dead and much of the territory's infrastructure has been obliterated, those plans have turned to ash.

LOUBANI: These men and women, when they get killed, it's also the death of all the patients they would have helped, also the death of a system. That's what it means when Hammam got killed.

ROMO: Alloh himself was anguished over the future of medical care in Gaza. Toward the end of his interview with "Democracy Now!" he was asked if he had a message for the world. Alloh urged America not to look away.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "DEMOCRACY NOW!")

ALLOH: We are being exterminated. We are being massly eradicated. And you pretend to care for humanitarian and human rights, which is not what we are living now. To prove us wrong, please do something.

ROMO: Palestinian health officials now say more than 12,000 people have been killed in the enclave since the war began, and the head of the World Health Organization says nowhere and no one is safe in Gaza. Vanessa Romo, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Vanessa Romo is a reporter for NPR's News Desk. She covers breaking news on a wide range of topics, weighing in daily on everything from immigration and the treatment of migrant children, to a war-crimes trial where a witness claimed he was the actual killer, to an alleged sex cult. She has also covered the occasional cat-clinging-to-the-hood-of-a-car story.
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