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.
Our activities in Gaza are limited. We are not able to currently coordinate our usual level of activities or pre-war projects. This is due to the intensity and unpredictability of the bombing, and the inability to get new supplies.
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-Shifa hospital, as well in Al-Nasser and Al-Quds hospitals.
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 many different countries from all over the world.
For the time being, they will be based in the south of the Gaza Strip to support existing hospitals there. Unless the Israeli forces agree to the ceasefire that we have repeatedly called for, we are aware that our ability to move in the Strip will be significantly restricted.
We are also supporting local health authorities where we can with donations from our medical stock. On 18 October, we donated US$1 million-worth of medical stock, including medicines and medical equipment – all we had left – to Al-Shifa hospital.
Our staff outside of the Strip are working hard on preparing medical and humanitarian supplies to be sent to Gaza when safe access will be guaranteed and open.
MSF is committed to supporting the people affected by the heavy Israeli bombardments and indiscriminate attacks on Gaza. We stand in solidarity with healthcare workers and patients in Gaza.
In the West Bank, we are maintaining activities focused on emergency care, and mental health care in Hebron, Nablus and Jenin.
Hebron: Our mobile clinics in the areas of Masafer Yatta are currently suspended. Our team has prepared medical kits with medications to be distributed to around 40 MSF patients suffering from chronic diseases.
Our medical team has 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.
Nablus: Psychological first aid group sessions are being conducted in three districts in Nablus, Tubas, and Qalqiliyeh.
Jenin: Our teams work at Jenin hospital providing emergency and trauma care to the people injured following the almost daily bombing and incursions by Israeli forces, especially at Jenin refugee camp.
We have donated a tuk-tuk, to allow local paramedics to transport injured patients to hospital, given Israeli forces often block the entrance to the refugee camp and do not allow ambulances to pass. We have also donated drugs and equipment to seven clinics, to prepare for emergency births in the event pregnant women will not be able to reach the hospital.
More than 400 Gazans who had permits to work in Israel are now being held across five detention centres in Jenin. We are providing mental health support to those who have suffered a mental breakdown after learning of the fate of their families in Gaza. We’re also providing medication for patients with chronic diseases in the detention centres and transport to health centres.
In Nur Shams and Jenin refugee camps, we donated first aid kits to volunteer paramedics.
We have teams on standby in Egypt, ready to send medical supplies into Gaza if allowed to safely do so, and to enter Gaza to support the emergency medical response if possible. They include medics, paramedics and logisticians.
We are in contact with the Egyptian authorities and the relevant organisations in Egypt to launch activities in Egypt if needed as well.
The situation in Gaza has been described by our teams as ‘horrific’ and ‘catastrophic’. Hospitals and clinics – the ones that are running – are overwhelmed and are barely functioning. Al-Shifa hospital is now reporting having run out of electricity, water and food. 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.
Hospitals, the area around them, and ambulances are being attacked. Patients – including those in critical condition – risk their lives either by moving, or by staying behind, in both cases perhaps to die without treatment.
A state of siege has been imposed by the Israeli government on Gaza, including the withholding of food, water, fuel and electricity. In the south of the Strip, hundreds of thousands of people are crammed into a small area, drastically increasing the likelihood of disease outbreaks. They’re deprived of essential needs – water, food, protected shelter, medicines. As a result of the blockage, Gaza’s water shortage has now reached a critical threshold. People are drinking salty water.
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. People are trapped; those who wish to leave are unable to do so. No where in Gaza is safe.
In the 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.
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
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