A message from the International President of MSF to the members of the League of Arab States and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation
Geneva, Monday 4th December 2023 – Dear members of the League of Arab States and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation,
I am writing to you, and to all other leaders in the world, on behalf of Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) to implore you and the League of Arab States and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, to do everything within your power, to ensure an immediate and sustained ceasefire in the Gaza Strip, as the declaration you made in Riyadh recently. The Israeli government should stop the deadly attacks on Palestinian civilians and allow crucial humanitarian aid to enter Gaza.
Though a 7-day truce was the first sign of humanity after weeks of relentless violence, it is by no means a solution of any kind. Any respite for the people of Gaza is welcome, especially if it gave them access to medical supplies, food and water. However, considering the immeasurable needs, these 7 days were not nearly enough to organise the delivery of sufficient aid to meet the immeasurable needs.
My colleagues and I, like so many people around the world, were aggrieved and shocked by Hamas’ attack on Israeli civilians. Now, after seven weeks, words fail us to describe the absolute horror being inflicted on Palestinian civilians by Israel as it carries out incessant and indiscriminate warfare in Gaza for all the world to see.
Israel has shown its blatant and total disregard for the protection of Gaza’s medical facilities. We are watching as hospitals are being turned into morgues and even ruins. They are being attacked by strikes, tanks and guns, encircled and raided, killing patients and medical staff. The World Health Organization (WHO) has documented 203 attacks on health care, including 22 fatalities and 48 injuries of health workers on duty. Medical staff, including our own, are utterly exhausted and beyond despair. They have had to amputate limbs from children suffering from severe burns without anesthesia or sterilized surgical tools. People are dying of pain. Due to forcible evacuations by Israeli soldiers, some doctors have had to leave patients behind and faced an unimaginable choice: their lives or those of their patients. There is no fathomable justification for such atrocious acts.
MSF recently sent an international emergency team to Gaza to support our Palestinian colleagues in bringing medical and surgical capacities in health facilities. Regrettably, the delivery of activities have been severely affected due to the scale of casualties, destruction of infrastructure, lack of essential supplies such as fuel and the ongoing unacceptable violence. We want and ought to be able to do so much more. Today this is just impossible due to the siege and unrelenting generalized warfare being unleashed by Israel.
Three of our MSF staff have been killed, many more have lost family members. Numerous other colleagues have been injured. Other fellow humanitarian organizations have reported dozens of their staff killed.
Gaza, under an Israel-imposed blockade since 2007, is indeed the world’s largest open-air prison. From the start of its military campaign, the Israeli government enforced a “complete siege” on Gaza, banning the entry of water, food, fuel and medicinal supplies for the 2.3 million civilians trapped in the enclave. Added to this, unyielding restrictions have been put on humanitarian access and are preventing much needed aid from reaching anyone who needs it. Subjecting an entire population to collective punishment is a war crime as per International Humanitarian Law (IHL).
We are still witnessing the fundamental principle of humanity being openly disgraced.
Despite Israel’s claims, its all-out assault is not being waged just on Hamas. It is being waged on all of Gaza and its people at any cost. Even wars have rules, but Israel is clearly trading them in for its own military doctrine based on disproportionality. In the early days of this unbearable offensive, the spokesman for Israel’s Defense Forces (IDF) announced that the “emphasis” of this flagrantly excessive reprisal was to be on “damage and not accuracy”. It is safe to say Israel’s actions have spoken louder than their words.
Northern Gaza is being erased from the map. The health system has collapsed. More than 14,000 people have been killed, half of which are children, according to Gaza’s health authorities. That’s one out of every 200 people in Gaza. Tens of thousands are injured. Families are digging their dead loved ones out from under the rubble. At least 1.7 million people have been displaced, according to the United Nations. These civilians have been forcibly ordered to move south but Israel is also bombing that area. Nowhere is safe.
Our emergency team in Khan Younis in southern Gaza, has reported massive influxes of wounded after intense bombing and airstrikes, including on overcrowded squalid refugee camps where people are barely surviving on the sparse humanitarian aid available. If the bombs do not get them, infectious diseases and starvation will.
A sustained ceasefire is the only way to stop the killing of thousands more civilians and allow for the delivery of desperately needed humanitarian aid. MSF also calls for the establishment of an independent mechanism to oversee the adequate flow of humanitarian supplies into Gaza.
Our medical teams in the West Bank have been also reporting attacks on health care with a surge in violence, persecution and harassment, in which over 200 Palestinians have been killed since 7th October, either by Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) or settlers, according to the United Nations.
We call on you and all other leaders in the world to be part of the solution and exert all means in your power to prevent further carnage.
We urge you to take action to uphold our shared humanity.
The indiscriminate and relentless attacks must stop now.
The forcible displacements must stop now.
The assaults on hospitals and medical staff must stop now.
The siege and restrictions on aid must stop now.
It must ALL STOP NOW.
“We did what we could. Remember us.” These are the words our MSF emergency doctor wrote on a Gaza hospital whiteboard normally used for planning surgeries. When the guns fall silent and the true scale of devastation is revealed, will you and your organisation be able to say the same?
Dr. Christos Christou, President of MSF International