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Gaza: Displaced people sheltering at Nasser Hospital forced to evacuate

15 Feb 24

Gaza: Displaced people sheltering at Nasser Hospital forced to evacuate

Injured people arrive at Nasser Hospital following heavy bombing in Khan Yunis (October 2023) Caption
Injured people arrive at Nasser Hospital following heavy bombing in Khan Yunis (October 2023)

Médecins Sans Frontières / Doctors Without Borders (MSF) strongly condemns the decision by Israeli Forces to issue an evacuation order to thousands of displaced people sheltering inside Nasser Hospital, in Khan Yunis, the largest medical facility in southern Gaza.

On 13 February, an Israeli military bulldozer destroyed the north gate of the hospital grounds and ordered displaced people to leave through it. Medical staff and patients were told they may remain in the hospital with a limit of one caretaker per patient. 

MSF staff are still in the building and continue to treat patients in near impossible conditions.

An impossible situation

Following weeks of heavy fighting near Nasser Hospital, medical staff, patients and displaced people found themselves trapped inside the compound with very little access to essential supplies. Many people who were wounded by the intense bombing in Khan Yunis were also unable to reach the hospital for emergency care.

According to information available to MSF teams, in the past days at least five people have been killed and ten others wounded after shots were fired directly at the hospital. 

“People have been forced into an impossible situation: stay at Nasser Hospital against the Israeli military’s orders and become a potential target or exit the compound into an apocalyptic landscape where bombings and evacuation orders are part of daily life,” says Lisa Macheiner, MSF project coordinator in Gaza. 

“Hospitals should be considered as safe places and shouldn’t even be evacuated in the first place.”

Most of the displaced people in Nasser Hospital have now left and thousands of Gazans once again find themselves with nowhere to go. People cannot move back to the largely destroyed northern part of Gaza because of checkpoints that impede goods and people from getting there. 

At MSF's out-patient department in Batil refugee camp Gandhi Pant, a nurse, escorts a patient with a possible appendicitis to a waiting ambulance. 

Batil is one of three camps in South Sudan’s Upper Nile State sheltering at least 113,000 refugees who have crossed the border from Blue Nile state to escape fighting between the Sudanese Armed Forces and the SPLM-North armed group. Refugees arrive at the camp with harrowing stories of being bombed out of their homes, or having their villages burned. The camps into which they have poured are on a vast floodplain, leaving many tents flooded and refugees vulnerable to disease. Mortality rates in Batil camp are at emergency levels, malnutrition rates are more than five times above emergency thresholds, and diarrhea and malarial cases are rising.

Help us prepare for the next emergency

In the south, Israel has been carrying out airstrikes and announced an extensive ground offensive on the city of Rafah which now hosts 1.5 million people. 

“People ask us ‘Where is it safe? Where should we go?’ but there is no answer to that, and it really leads to a feeling of despair,” says Macheiner.

“People don't know what to do anymore. They feel unsafe and terrified about what is going to happen next,” 

Healthcare must be protected

Since the war in Gaza began, our medical teams and patients have been forced to evacuate nine different healthcare facilities in the Gaza Strip, after coming under fire from tanks, artillery, fighter jets, snipers and ground troops, or being subject to an evacuation order. 

Medical staff and patients have been arrested, abused and killed. Provision of healthcare and scaling up lifesaving assistance is being made impossible by the intensity of Israel’s bombings and shelling, as well as intense fighting.

Warring parties must always respect and allow unhindered access to medical facilities and their surroundings and protect medical staff and patients. 

MSF reiterates its call for an immediate ceasefire that will spare the lives of civilians, allow adequate and vital access to food and other basic commodities, and re-establish the healthcare system on which the survival of the people of Gaza depends.

MSF and the Israel – Hamas conflict

An unprecedented humanitarian crisis is unfolding in Gaza. MSF teams have worked to treat the wounded and supply overwhelmed hospitals as indiscriminate airstrikes and a state of siege threaten millions of men, women and children.

Médecins Sans Frontières / Doctors Without Borders (MSF) is horrified by the events that began on Saturday 7 October – both the brutal mass killing of civilians perpetrated by Hamas in Israel, and by the massive attacks on Gaza now being pursued by the Israeli military.