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Gaza: Israeli forces attack MSF shelter in Al-Mawasi

The violence against Palestinian civilians in Gaza must end now.

Damaged interior of MSF's shelter in Al-Mawasi in Khan Younis, Gaza, after an Israeli attack.

Palestine 2024 © MSF

Last updated on April 3, 2024

NEW YORK/JERUSALEM, February 21, 2024—The international medical humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) condemns in the strongest possible terms the killing of two MSF staff family members during an Israeli offensive on Al-Mawasi in Khan Younis, southern Gaza. Six others were injured in the attack.

Late in the evening of February 20, Israeli forces conducted a military operation in Al-Mawasi—located on Gaza’s coastline—during which an Israeli tank fired on a house sheltering MSF colleagues and their families. The attack killed the daughter-in-law and wife of an MSF colleague. Six other people were injured, five of whom were women or children. Bullets were also fired at the clearly marked MSF building, hitting the front gate, the building’s exterior, and the interior of the ground floor. 

The MSF shelter in Al Mawasi, Khan Younis, after an attack by Israeli forces in Gaza.
Bullets were also fired at the MSF building, hitting the front gate, the building’s exterior, and the interior of the ground floor. Palestine 2024 © MSF

Following the attack, shelling in the area delayed ambulance teams for more than two hours, but they were later able to reach the site and bring the wounded—some of whom sustained burn injuries—to the International Medical Corps Field Hospital in Rafah. 

“We are outraged and deeply saddened by these killings,” said Meinie Nicolai, MSF general director, who is currently coordinating MSF medical activities in Gaza. “On the same day the United States chose to veto an immediate ceasefire, two daughters saw their mother and sister-in-law killed by an Israeli tank shell.” 

Targeting a building knowing it is full of humanitarian workers and their families is unconscionable.

Meinie Nicolai, MSF general director

At the time of the attack, 64 people were sheltering in the house. All parties to the war, including Israeli forces, are regularly informed of the whereabouts of MSF teams in specific locations, and have acknowledged their presence. Israeli forces have been clearly informed of the precise location of this MSF shelter in Al-Mawasi. In addition, a two-by-three-meter MSF flag was draped on the outside of the building. No evacuation orders were issued by Israeli forces before the strike. MSF has since contacted Israeli authorities and is seeking further explanation. 

“These killings underscore the grim reality that nowhere in Gaza is safe,” said Nicolai. “Promises of safe areas are empty and deconfliction mechanisms unreliable. The amount of force being used in a densely populated urban area is staggering, and targeting a building knowing it is full of humanitarian workers and their families is unconscionable.”

Damaged windows at the MSF shelter in Al-Mawasi, Khan Younis, Gaza.

Some MSF colleagues and their family members who were living in the MSF shelter before the attack in Al-Mawasi had already survived a strike on another MSF shelter on January 8 in Rafah, which killed the five-year-old daughter of an MSF staff member. This demonstrates, once again, that Israeli forces are not ensuring the safety of civilians in their military operations and shows a complete disregard for human life and lack of respect for medical aid. This makes it almost impossible to sustain medical humanitarian activities in Gaza. 
  
MSF teams are supporting our colleagues and their family members who survived yesterday’s attack, as well as the loved ones of those who were killed. Five MSF staff have been killed since the beginning of the war, in addition to numerous family members. 
  
MSF reiterates our call for an immediate and sustained ceasefire in Gaza. The violence against civilians must end now. 

In late March, a Sky News investigation into the attack indicated that the MSF shelter was struck by an Israeli tank round. As a result of the investigation, the Israeli Defense Forces said they were conducting their own 'examination'.

How MSF is responding to the war in Gaza