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MSF in Palestinian Territories, 2002
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The cycle of disproportionate use of force by the Israeli army and indiscriminate suicide bombings by Palestinians abruptly escalated in early 2002, devastating civilians on both sides. Palestinian cities have been repeatedly occupied, leaving many neighborhoods in ruins and severely limiting people's access to clinics and hospitals. Daily life for many Palestinians has become intolerable. Repeated humiliation, military assaults and restrictions on movement have demoralized and terrorized people living in constant threat of violence. In September 2002, MSF published "Palestinian Chronicles: Trapped by War" a group of articles and testimonies detailing the deteriorating conditions and suffering of Palestinian civilians in Hebron and the Gaza Strip since the Al-Aqsa intifada (or uprising) began in September 2000.
In spring 2002, MSF adapted its ongoing projects to the crisis. Lack of access had become the most serious obstacle to medical care. Curfews and roadblocks made it increasingly difficult to travel, and many hospitals and clinics began to face shortages of medicines and vaccines. Medical workers were prevented from reaching their workplaces and patients were unable or too fearful to leave their homes to seek treatment. MSF teams assisted in the delivery of essential medical supplies and in many cases helped bring patients to health facilities when there was no other way.
In one instance, an MSF team waited for five hours before being allowed to enter the village of Yatta to pick up wounded civilians. After finally picking up the two boys who had been shot, the MSF vehicle was stopped again and the wounded were carried out of the car and searched. In other incidents, Israeli tanks have destroyed ambulances and targeted Palestinian health facilities. MSF has spoken out through numerous press releases about these serious obstructions of medical activities and has condemned the increasing attacks against medical providers as a violation of international law.
In April 2002, MSF was able to enter the district of Jenin, which had been cut off during the month-long occupation by the Israeli army. MSF provided medicine and medical material to a public hospital there, and assisted Palestinian health workers with the transport of medicine and vaccines in Jenin, Tulkarm and Nablus.
A large part of MSF's work in Hebron and the Gaza strip, ongoing even before the escalation of the crisis in spring 2002, has been to provide medical, psychological and social assistance to people living close to Israeli settlements, army installations and checkpoints, where they are subjected daily to machine-gun fire and restrictions on movement and often have tanks parked outside their door. Doctors and psychologists visit families in their homes, providing treatment and referrals.
MSF also aids Bedouins in the region of Yatta and in several villages in the district of Hebron.
MSF has been working with Palestinian civilians since 1988.