MSF Intervention: War on Gaza

MSF Intervention: War on Gaza - Palestine

MSF response and situation

War between Hamas and Israel has broken out in Gaza, where heavy shelling and airstrikes have destroyed large parts of the Gaza Strip.

Decades of repression and conflict, and an Israel-imposed blockade on the Gaza Strip, Palestine, from 2007, exploded on 7 October 2023 as Hamas attacked Israel on a large scale. In response, Israel has launched massive attacks on Gaza.

In Gaza, hospitals and other health facilities have been attacked, leaving many not functioning. Israel is imposing a siege on Gaza, with no electricity, food, water or medical items available. People are trying to survive in extremely dire circumstances.

We call for an immediate and unconditional ceasefire. Thousands have been killed and injured. Today, nowhere is safe in Gaza.

While most of our Palestinian colleagues have moved to the south of the Strip, a handful of our doctors and nurses have chosen to remain in northern Gaza. They continue to offer their support to the wounded, including in some MSF-supported facilities and in collaboration with local healthcare staff. We have colleagues providing care in Al-Awda, Al Nasser  and Al-Aqsa hospitals. We also have staff in the European, Rafah Indonesian, and Emirati Maternity Hospital, as well as one general healthcare facility, Al-Shaboura clinic. Most of our teams are in the Middle Area and South of Gaza, while there just a few of our colleagues left in northern Gaza, in Al Awda hospital. Our teams provide surgical support, wound care, physiotherapy, outpatient consultations and mental health services.

On 14 November, a new MSF team of 15 people – composed of surgeons, anaesthetists and intensive care specialists, with some coordination and logistical support – entered southern Gaza via the Rafah crossing from Egypt. People in the team come from different countries from all over the world.   

In Khan Younis, in Al Nasser Hospital, where MSF provides emergency care and surgical treatment, including to patients with traumatic injuries and severe burn injuries, our activities have been adjusting continuously to the security conditions. As of 27 December, a number of MSF Palestinian staff continue to work in the hospital, while the presence of the international staff has been suspended since 26 December.  

Since 6 December, we have been supporting the European Hospital with small surgical capacity. We are now slightly increasing our support by reinforcing the surgical team, providing wound dressing as well.

In the Middle Area, in Al-Aqsa hospital, our international and Palestinian staff provide wound dressings and outpatient consultations for patients with blast injuries and burns, and also support the operating room with surgical capacity.

We were forced to stop our support to Martyrs and Beni Suhaila clinics, where we had been providing general healthcare, wound dressing and mental health consultations, after the Israeli forces ordered people to evacuate the areas on 1 December.   

Nearly half of the consultations we were doing in the clinics were for children under the age of five. Our teams were caring for patients who are now left with infected wounds, some of which had worms inside upon arrival.  

On 9 December, our team in Rafah reopened Al-Shaboura clinic, which had been closed since the beginning of the war, where we treated over 130 patients on the first day.  

We are also supporting local health authorities where we can with donations of medical supplies. We have donated over 50 tonnes of medication and medical supplies to several clinics and health posts.  

Recently, we started supporting the Al-Emirati maternity hospital with medical supplies and staff including gynaecologists, nurses and hygienists working  around –the –clock.. Our teams have also supported the clean-up of the maternity ward and provide medical and hygiene supplies.

Between 7 October and 21 December, 286 healthcare workers were killed in the Gaza Strip. Fifty-seven ambulances were hit and damaged according to the WHO.

Our teams started to support the outpatient department at Rafah Indonesian Hospital with wound dressing, physiotherapy, and other small procedures to relieve the patient load from Nasser, European and Al -Najaar hospitals.

Our teams are also supporting 20 water distribution points, all near informal camps of displaced people. In total, the teams are providing 80.000 litres per day, but we are still struggling to provide enough per person.

In the West Bank, we are maintaining activities focused on emergency care, and mental health care in Hebron, Nablus and Jenin.  

Hebron: Our mental health services including psychological first aid, counselling and psychotherapy continue to be offered to people, including a hotline system for people in need of medical, mental health or social services, who can be referred to the appropriate facility.

Our teams have progressively expanded our response to provide healthcare to people who are unable to reach medical facilities. As of November 2023, six new locations were added for our mobile clinics to reach, making a total of 10 locations covering the areas outside and inside Hebron’s old city, but also in the remote villages of Masafer Yatta in the southern West Bank.

Our medical teams have performed phone assessments among Palestinian residents and displaced people, referring those in need of medical, mental health or social services. Mental health services continue to be offered to affected people and communities, mostly remotely.  

We have provided donations of medical equipment and kits to Alia hospital, to community focal points in Beit Omar, Al-Rshaydeh, and to the emergency care centre in Um El-Khair. We’ve also provided training for staff in Al Mohtaseb hospital located in Hebron old city.

In addition to the expansion of medical activities since 7 October, our teams have increased health promotion activities in the community, and the distribution of relief items, hygiene kits and food parcels to displaced Gazans, and West Bank residents affected by violence and forcible displacement.

Nablus: Psychological first aid group sessions are being conducted in three districts in Nablus, Tubas, and Qalqiliyeh.

Jenin: Our team supports emergency medical response at Khalid Suleiman Hospital in the Jenin refugee camp. We donated drugs and equipment to seven general healthcare centres for emergency deliveries anticipating that roads will be blocked and that women giving birth will not be able to reach the hospital.  Training for the medical staff of these centres enables them to to take care of patients in emergencies.  

In the refugee camps of Nur Shams in Tulkarem and Jenin Camp, we donated first aid bags to volunteer paramedics to stabilise patients during active hostilities and keep them alive until they reach the hospitals.

MSF in Lebanon is collaborating with health partners to train medical personnel in various hospitals as part of the Ministry of Public Health’s emergency plan. The training encompasses patient triage, responses during conflicts, and managing significant injuries to enhance emergency preparedness. MSF has successfully conducted sessions in Tyre, Saida, Zahle, Hermel, and Baalbeck hospitals.

Furthermore, MSF in Lebanon is actively supporting and organizing advocacy and communications activities to highlight the situation in Gaza and the work MSF is undertaking. As part of these efforts, MSF is also arranging mobilization solidarity events in both Cairo and Beirut.

We have teams in Egypt, ready to send medical supplies into Gaza. On 29 October, we sent 26 tonnes of medical supplies – which can cover the needs for 800 surgeries – on a WHO plane to Egypt, under the coordination of the Egyptian Red Crescent, destined for healthcare facilities in Gaza. Upon the cargo’s arrival in Egypt, we have been able to send part of it into Gaza, but sending medical supplies remains difficult due to Israeli restrictions at the Rafah crossing.

We are in contact with the Egyptian authorities and the relevant organisations in Egypt to start activities in Egypt to provide healthcare for injured or sick Palestinian people allowed to exit Gaza, if needed.

The situation in Gaza has been described by our teams as ‘catastrophic’. The health system has collapsed. Most of Gaza’s hospitals are out of service, as the electrical power and water have been cut off due to a lack of fuel and due to the damage from strikes. Those that are running are continuously under attack, as are ambulances. Patients and medical staff are being injured and killed.

There are very little medical supplies. Surgeons in Al-Shifa hospital have been operating without anaesthetics or painkillers. Contact with our staff is sporadic; we frequently lose contact with them. We have not been able to contact our staff in Al-Shifa hospital since 16 November.
The repeated calls by the Israeli forces to evacuate the entirety of the northern Gaza Strip is outrageous; it is a policy of forcible transfer of civilians and patients to make the north of Gaza a free-fire zone. These evacuation orders to hospitals are a death sentence for the gravely sick and injured and implies that medical workers should leave their patients behind. Civilians who remain in the north are still civilians and must be protected as such.

The bombing of Gaza is relentless. One of our colleagues, Mohammed Al Ahel, a laboratory technician, was killed on 6 November when the area near his house was bombed. Two of our staff, Dr Mahmoud Abu Nujaila and Dr Ahmad Al Sahar, and a third doctor, Dr Ziad Al-Tatari, were killed in a strike on Al-Awda hospital on 21 November. As Israel orders Gazans to flee south, it simultaneously continues its campaign of bombardments in the south, leaving people with no safe place to go.  

A state of siege has been imposed by the Israeli government on all of Gaza, including the withholding of food, water, fuel and electricity. More than 1 million people have had to flee to the south, where they’re crammed into a small area. The displaced are sleeping in rough conditions, with dangerously little levels of food and water; people have been drinking salty water. There is no electricity and hygiene conditions are extremely poor; some shelters have one toilet for every 600 people. These conditions drastically increase the likelihood of disease outbreaks.

Israeli armed forces have announced the West Bank as a closed area. Most checkpoints across the West Bank remain closed, exacerbating movement restrictions on people and affecting their ability to access basic services, including food, and medical care.

In West Bank towns, people are experiencing an explosion of violence against them. Jenin has been particularly hard hit, with bombings and incursions by Israeli forces in the refugee camp killing and wounding dozens of people.

In Jenin, our teams report treating patients who showed signs of being tied up and beaten, reportedly by Israeli forces.

Our medical teams at Jenin hospital have witnessed Israeli forces shooting at the hospital itself, while they’ve also treated medical staff who were shot by soldiers while still in an ambulance. Israeli forces also prevent the ability of ambulances to move around, blocking entrances to the refugee camp.

These attacks on medical care MUST stop.

In Hebron, families have been displaced after violence from Israeli settlers and forces, including having their homes burnt down. Patients in Hebron old city, known as H2, are facing challenging access to our mobile clinic when it’s there, due to extreme restrictions on movements.

We are asking for:

  • An immediate and unconditional ceasefire that will spare the lives of Gazans and restore the flow of humanitarian aid.
  • A lifting of the siege to allow increased and continuous humanitarian supplies to cross into Gaza.
  • Protection for civilians and healthcare personnel and facilities on both sides, at all times; hospitals and ambulances are not targets.
  • Basic guarantees of safety to enable our teams to move to provide humanitarian and medical services.
  • Access to people in need of medical care and humanitarian aid, including the sick and wounded.
  • People to be afforded safe access to essential supplies like food and water and health facilities.
  • Increased essential humanitarian supplies like medicine, medical equipment, food, fuel and water must be allowed to enter the Gaza enclave.
  • Those who wish to leave must be able to do so safely without prejudicing their future option to come back.
  • In the West Bank, for Israeli authorities to put an end to the violence and forced displacements of Palestinians.
  • Israeli authorities must stop implementing restrictive measures in the West Bank that impede the ability of Palestinians to access basic services, including medical care.

Mobilization for Gaza

A part of the protest organized today by Doctors Without Borders in Martyrs' Square in Beirut, as part of an international call launched by the organization to demand an immediate and permanent cessation of gunfire and to show solidarity with our colleagues in Gaza.
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The bombing, the all-out assault, needs to stop. NOW.” “As the president of a medical humanitarian organisation, I urge – implement an immediate ceasefire to allow humanitarian aid into Gaza.”

Dr. Christos Christou, MSF International President

Published on October 10, 2023
Meinie Nicolai - General Director of MSF’s Brussels Operational Centre
Claire Magone - General Director of MSF France

Press Releases

February 21, 2024
MSF strongly condemns Israeli attack on Al-Mawasi shelter
February 20, 2024
Gaza: MSF calls for the protection and safe evacuation of patients from Nasser hospital
December 19, 2023
Inside Gaza: “Staying alive is only a matter of luck” - Q&A with Ricardo Martinez
December 16, 2023
The camp football team used to have 20 players – today only seven are still alive
December 10, 2023
Gaza: The Security Council must end its complicity in the ongoing carnage
November 21, 2023
MSF doctors killed in strike on Al Awda hospital in Northern Gaza
November 18, 2023
Gaza: MSF condemns deliberate attack on a convoy transporting staff, resulting in one death and one injury
November 17, 2023
Gaza: Trapped by days of unrelenting fighting, thousands of civilians are at risk of dying, including over a hundred MSF staff and their families
November 11, 2023
Patients and medical staff in Gaza trapped in hospitals under fire – Attacks must stop now
November 9, 2023
Israeli forces and settlers ramp up violence against Palestinians in West Bank
November 7, 2023
Thousands of Gazans working in Israel had their permits cancelled after 7 October 2023
November 1, 2023
MSF international staff leave Gaza among other humanitarian workers, and injured Palestinians to Rafah
October 29, 2023
Immediate ceasefire is needed in Gaza to stop the bloodshed
October 14, 2023
Gaza: As the ultimatum given to the population expires, MSF calls on the Israeli authorities to show humanity
October 12, 2023
MSF: indiscriminate violence and the collective punishment of Gaza must cease
October 10, 2023
First-person account by Léo Cans, MSF head of mission for Palestine (based in Jerusalem)
October 9, 2023
MSF performs surgeries, donates supplies in Gaza amid overcrowded facilities

Media Interviews

Al Jazeera: Interview with MSF Lebanon Executive Director Dr. Ahmed ALDIKHARI
Al Araby: Interview with MSF Lebanon Executive Director Dr. Ahmed ALDIKHARI
Sharqiya News: Interview with MSF Lebanon Executive Director Dr. Ahmed ALDIKHARI
Al Qaher News: Interview with MSF Lebanon Executive Director Dr. Ahmed ALDIKHARI
Sharqiya News: Interview with MSF Lebanon Executive Director Dr. Ahmed ALDIKHARI

Testimonies from the Field

Christophe Garnier - MSF project coordinator in Southern Gaza
Dr. Obeid - MSF Surgeon doing surgery in Gaza
Audio clip from Dr Nedal Abed from Al Shifa hospital in Gaza
Dr. Mohammed Abu Mughaiseeb, MSF Deputy Medical Coordinator
Louis Laarman, MSF Communications Manager in Gaza
Darwin Diaz, Medical Coordinator - Gaza
Voice Testimony from Gaza