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Israel – Palestine: MSF calls for indiscriminate violence and collective punishment to stop

12 Oct 23 | 18 Oct 23

Israel – Palestine: MSF calls for indiscriminate violence and collective punishment to stop

An aerial view of destruction in Gaza - 9 October Caption
An aerial view of destruction in Gaza - 9 October

Update: Israel demands one million people leave Northern Gaza

"Israel’s 24-hour notice that people in Northern Gaza must leave their land, homes and hospitals is outrageous – this represents an attack on medical care and on humanity.

"We have consistently seen dehumanising language and this violence is a manifestation of that. We are talking about more than a million human beings. 'Unprecedented' doesn’t even cover the medical humanitarian impact of this.

"Gaza is being flattened, thousands of people are dying, this must stop now. We condemn Israel’s demand in the strongest possible terms."

Meinie Nicolai | MSF General Director

Médecins Sans Frontières / Doctors Without Borders (MSF) is horrified by the brutal mass killing of civilians perpetrated by Hamas, and by the massive attacks on Gaza now being pursued by Israel. 

MSF calls for an immediate cessation to the indiscriminate bloodshed, the establishment of safe spaces and safe passage for people to reach them as a matter of urgency. 

People must be afforded safe access to essential supplies like food and water and health facilities.

Essential humanitarian supplies like medicine, medical equipment, food, fuel and water must also be allowed to enter the Gaza enclave. 

To facilitate this, Rafah border crossing with Egypt must be opened and bombings on the crossing point must cease. 

Siege, staff and supplies

Some 2.2 million people are currently trapped in the Gaza Strip, where indiscriminate bombing has turned a chronic humanitarian crisis into a catastrophe.

More than 300 MSF staff are in Gaza, some of whom have lost homes or family members; it has been near-impossible for them to move.

“The fighter jets are demolishing entire streets block by block,” says Matthias Kennes, Head of MSF in Gaza.

“There is no place to hide, no time to rest. Some places are being bombed on consecutive nights. We know what it was like in 2014 and in 2021, thousands died.

“Each time our medical colleagues go to work, not knowing if they will see their homes or their families again. But they say this is different. This time, after five days, there have already been 1,200 deaths. What can people do? Where are they supposed to go?”

Millions of men, women and children are facing a collective punishment in the form of total siege, indiscriminate bombing, and the pending threat of a ground battle. 

Safe spaces must be established, humanitarian supplies must be allowed into Gaza. The wounded and sick must receive medical care. Medical facilities and personnel must be protected and respected; hospitals and ambulances are not targets.

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The siege imposed by the Israeli government, including the withholding of food, water, fuel and electricity is unconscionable. 

Following 16 years of military blockade on the Gaza strip, the medical structures within are already weakened; this siege leaves no respite for patients caught up in the fighting, nor for medical staff. It represents an intentional block on life-saving items; the entry of these supplies and key medical staff must be facilitated urgently.

“In Ministry of Health hospitals, medical staff report that they are running out of anaesthetics and painkillers,” says Darwin Diaz, MSF Medical Coordinator in Gaza.

“On the MSF side, we moved medical supplies from our two-month emergency reserves to Al Awda Hospital and now we have used three weeks’ worth of stock in three days.”

MSF staff including medical personnel have been extremely restricted in their movements since Saturday; they are unable to obtain safe passage to support Palestinian medical colleagues working day and night to treat the injured. 

Men women and children playing no role in the hostilities do not have a safe haven to go to. 

Healthcare is not a target

MSF teams are witnessing a level of destruction that may already exceed previous escalations. 

Two of the hospitals MSF supports, Al Awda and the Indonesian Hospital, have both sustained damage in airstrikes, while MSF’s own clinic sustained some damage in an explosion on Monday. 

A partially collapsed ceiling at Al-Awda Hospital, sustained during airstrikes - 11 October Caption
A partially collapsed ceiling at Al-Awda Hospital, sustained during airstrikes - 11 October

Today MSF is running an MSF standalone clinic, supporting Al Awda Hospital, Nasser Hospital, and the Indonesian Hospital in Gaza. MSF reopened an operational theatre in Al-Shifa on 10 October to receive burn and trauma patients. We have also donated medical supplies to Al Shifa Hospital and will continue providing support to hospitals. 

Our teams in Jenin, Hebron and Nablus are actively assessing the medical needs in the West Bank, as the violence is escalating. At least 27 Palestinians have been killed in settler attacks and clashes with the Israeli military. 

Civilians, civilian infrastructure and healthcare facilities must be protected at all times. MSF calls on the Government of Israel to cease its campaign of collective punishment against the entirety of Gaza. Israel and Palestinian authorities and factions must establish safe spaces. 

The entry of humanitarian assistance, food, water, fuel, medicine and medical equipment to the Gaza Strip must be facilitated urgently, failure to do so will cost more lives.

MSF is an impartial organisation. So, we are sometimes asked why we do not currently run medical programmes in Israel.

We have offered our support to Israeli hospitals treating high numbers of casualties. However, Israel has strong emergency and health systems in place.

MSF focuses on filling gaps in healthcare and going wherever that need is greatest. Our teams are working in Gaza and the West Bank - as we have for 20 years - providing medical aid and supporting a healthcare system that urgently lacks both staff and supplies.

This is why we report on what our staff and patients are directly witnessing and experiencing in Gaza. Hospitals are becoming overwhelmed and facing shortages of drugs, medical supplies, and fuel for generators.

MSF in Palestine

Palestine comprises parts of modern Israel and the Palestinian territories of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.

Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF) first worked in Palestine in 1989.

Today, we provide medical and psychological assistance to people affected by the ongoing conflict, continuing our long-running mental health programmes on the West Bank and support to burns and trauma victims in the Gaza Strip. Since 2018, we have also been running a reconstructive surgery programme in northern Gaza.