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Gaza: Reports of drones, tanks, and shelling near Al-Shifa Hospital

We are extremely concerned for the safety of patients and medical staff trapped inside the hospital compound.

Medical staff treat a patient at Al Shifa Hospital in Gaza

MSF staff treat a patient with a facial injury at Al-Shifa Hospital in October 2023. | Palestine 2023 © Mohammad Masri

JERUSALEM, March 18, 2024—On March 18, Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) staff sheltering near Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza reported heavy fighting nearby as Israeli forces announced a military operation inside and around the facility.

An MSF staff member said he heard drones, tanks, and shelling near the hospital in the early hours of March 18 and witnessed a fire rising from Al-Shifa's main building. He also said there were clashes around the MSF clinic and office in Gaza City, where some members of our staff and their families are still sheltering.

We are extremely concerned for the safety of patients and medical staff trapped inside the hospital compound, as well as for the safety of our colleagues and their families currently sheltering in the MSF clinic and office. We call on all warring parties to respect the grounds and perimeter of Al-Shifa Hospital and ensure the safety of medical personnel, patients, and civilians.

According to MSF staff, Israeli forces conducted mass arrests in the area surrounding Al-Shifa. We have lost contact with one of our staff members. Israeli forces also issued an evacuation order for civilians to head toward Al-Mawasi in the south via Gaza’s coastal road, despite announcing plans for a new offensive in the southern part of the Strip. 

Al-Shifa Hospital was the principal medical complex in Gaza before coming under siege in November. Since then, it has gradually transformed into a camp for displaced people while the medical staff who remain on the premises struggle to properly treat patients with extremely limited supplies.

Last week, MSF head of mission for Palestine Léo Cans visited Al-Shifa and Nasser hospitals in Gaza as part of a United Nations-led convoy. He described extensive damage to the hospitals, both of which have been left only partially functional. Across Gaza, ongoing military operations have made it extremely difficult for people in need to reach these facilities. Below, he shares an update in a video recorded on March 14.

How MSF is responding to the war in Gaza