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Humans of Gaza: Dr. Mahmoud Abu Nujaila, empathetic doctor and doting father

By Humaira Ahad

“Whoever stays until the end will tell our story, we did what we could remember us,” Dr. Mahmoud Abu Nujaila wrote these words on a whiteboard at the Al-Awda Hospital in northern Gaza.

These words resonated at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) at The Hague last month when Irish lawyer Blinne Ni Ghralaigh, joining South Africa's legal team at the world court, presented Dr. Abu Nujaila’s words written on a hospital whiteboard in Gaza to the jury at the ICJ hearing.

On November 21, when Dr. Abu Nujaila was busy attending to his patients at the Al Awda Hospital, the medical facility was hit by an Israeli airstrike, killing the 38-year-old physician along with his colleagues.

Dr. Abu Nujaila didn’t survive till the end to tell the world that he did his best to save his patients.

The Palestinian physician was working with the Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) in Gaza, a global charity that provides humanitarian medical care.

Many other medical practitioners working with the MSF were severely injured in the regime’s bombing.

MSF said it regularly shared information with the Israeli regime about Al Awda as a functioning hospital and the presence of its staff there.GPS coordinates were also shared with the regime authorities a day before the airstrike.

A spokesperson for MSF said the charity was “horrified” by the killing of Dr. Abu Nujaila.

“Our thoughts are with his family and all colleagues mourning his death,” the spokesperson noted.

The young physician left behind his wife Naima, and their three sons, Waleed, Majid and Khalid.

In a text message sent a week before his death, Dr. Abu Nujaila described the heartbreaking situation at the hospital to his brother Muhammad, who lives in London.

He wrote about the distressing story of three of his tender patients aged 8, 7 and 4.

Dr. Abu Nujaila told Muhammad that these three children were the only survivors from three different families. The Gaza-based doctor said the children were in deep trauma both emotionally and physically. They were in pain and suffering from fractures, burns and wounds.

“I take care of them daily. They have become my own children,” Dr. Abu Nujaila told Muhammad.

Sharing the fears of displacement with his brother, Dr. Abu Nujaila said, “We await at any time the order from the Israeli army to forcefully evacuate to the southern region of Gaza and to leave these children.”

“Tell me for God’s sake, how can I leave them? I don’t dare even think about it,” the doctor added, expressing his attachment to the three young, orphaned children.

Before his death, Dr. Abu Nujaila sent a message to one of his colleagues on a WhatsApp group.

“We as doctors will not abandon our patients, and we still have hope the world will not abandon us,” he wrote, hopeful that the world will save Palestinians in Gaza from the apartheid regime’s savagery.

In his appeal to the world, Dr. AbuNujaila said: “Not for our sake as medical staff, but for the sake of patients. Don’t let us down.”

Muhammad, remembering his brother’s sympathetic nature towards his patients, said he “put the lives of vulnerable patients before his own and his own family, who didn’t even get a chance to say goodbye to him.”

The occupying regime has even snatched the right of Palestinian families to mourn for their loved ones.

“My family is devastated with grief. We are deeply proud of him. We can’t even mourn together because it is not safe to do so,” Muhammad said, mourning the loss of his brother.

He hastened to add that “nobody is safe in Gaza from the bombs, from hunger and thirst.”

On February 28, Al-Awda Hospital in the north of the besieged strip announced the complete suspension of all its medical services due to a severe shortage of fuel and medical supplies.

Dr. Muhammad Salha, director of the monitoring and evaluation department at Al-Awda said the complete cessation of services at the hospital “will lead to a complete deprivation of basic health services for citizens, especially in light of the cessation of service by all hospitals in the north.”

Earlier Al Awda Hospital was besieged for 18 days by the Israeli army, damaging the upper floors of the building.

The Palestinian health ministry in Gaza said in December that the Israeli army has turned the Al-Awda Hospital in the northern Gaza Strip into “military barracks.”

The health ministry in Gaza reported on Monday that 90 people were killed by Israel over the past 24 hours, putting the total fatalities since the war began at 30,410 people.

The ministry also said 71,700 people had been wounded in the coastal strip since October 7.

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