May 7, 2024

SAMS Concerned Over Rafah Escalation in Gaza; Fears for the Safety of Its Medical Volunteers Unable to Evacuate

The Syrian American Medical Society (SAMS) expresses its grave concerns for the safety of civilians in the populous Rafah area of southern Gaza, currently facing a military incursion and a displacement of over 100,000 people. Exacerbating the situation is the inability of international medical volunteers to serve safely or effectively, given the insecurity and lack of supplies and personnel.  Since the incursion, these volunteers are now unable to evacuate.  

One of SAMS’ international medical volunteers serving in Gaza is now trapped along with other international volunteers due to the escalation and the closure of the border crossing.  The SAMS volunteer, serving with a medical team of multiple nationalities, said he had never witnessed such conditions: “The situation here is beyond description.”

The volunteer said many hospital staff had failed to show up yesterday for work out of fear of the escalating violence, causing a slow-down of services at the ICU department where he worked.  Hospitals are already performing at lower capacity due to limited medical supplies as well as the loss of personnel killed in the conflict.

Other SAMS medical volunteers who have served in Gaza this year also found conditions to be unprecedented. Dr. Samer Attar, a longstanding SAMS volunteer from Chicago who completed his third medical mission in Gaza last month, said malnutrition was a growing crisis there.  “Every day, we saw death from malnutrition, dehydration, and traumatic blast injuries,” he said.

Dr. Mike Mallah, an acute care surgeon from South Carolina who returned from Gaza in mid-March, said: “Almost everyone on staff has had their homes destroyed, has had family members killed. In fact, while I was on rounds the other day…one of our physicians had just received a call that one of his cousins had been killed and had to leave the hospital.” According to Mallah, the constant violence was pulling doctors and nurses away from what was already a “skeleton crew” inside the hospital.

The President of SAMS, Dr. Mufaddal Hamadeh, calls for an immediate cessation of violence and an uninhibited flow of humanitarian assistance to those in dire need. He is also asking that international medical volunteers be allowed to evacuate to ensure their safety. “Enough is enough,” he said. “This is a humanitarian disaster of the highest magnitude with over half the population already displaced and a large portion of them living day to day for survival.  On top of this, our medical volunteers need to put their lives on the line simply to save the lives of others.  This must stop!”

SAMS’ medical volunteers in Gaza, like those from other organizations, travel to the region to address the humanitarian needs of the innocent civilian population that the international community has failed to protect.  While serving at great risk, the volunteers prefer to stay and perform their life-saving efforts. 

SAMS applauds their commitment, but the medical volunteers cannot fulfill their role without protection from the international community. Under International Humanitarian Law, medical personnel exclusively assigned to medical duties must be respected and protected in all circumstances.  Furthermore, all such medical personnel must be allowed to evacuate safely as necessary.

SAMS is a nonprofit, non-political organization that works on the front lines of crisis relief, providing medical and humanitarian assistance to the most vulnerable in Syria, its neighboring countries, and beyond.  Last year, SAMS provided lifesaving medical services to 3.6 million people. 


For more information about SAMS, go to To speak with SAMS’ President, contact David Lillie at