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Indiscriminate violence and the collective punishment of Gaza must cease

More than 2.2 million people are trapped in Gaza, where indiscriminate bombing has turned a chronic humanitarian crisis into a catastrophe.

A crowd of Palestinians surrounded by rubble and smoke from Israeli airstrikes in Gaza.

Palestine 2023 © MSF

GAZA/BARCELONA/BRUSSELS/PARIS, October 12, 2023 — Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is horrified by the mass killing of civilians perpetrated by Hamas, and by the massive attacks on civilians in Gaza now being carried out by Israel. The international medical humanitarian organization calls for an immediate cessation to the indiscriminate bloodshed and for the urgent establishment of safe spaces and safe passage for civilians trapped in Gaza. 

"Millions of men, women, and children in Gaza are facing collective punishment in the form of total siege, indiscriminate bombing, and the pending threat of a ground battle," said Dr. Christos Christou, MSF International President. "Safe spaces must be established and humanitarian supplies must be allowed into the enclave. The wounded and sick must receive medical care. Medical facilities and personnel must be protected and respected; hospitals and ambulances are not targets."

MSF staff prepare a donation of medical supplies in Gaza on October 8, 2023.

Gaza’s chronic humanitarian crisis has become a humanitarian catastrophe

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 nearly impossible for them to move.

“The fighter jets are demolishing entire streets block by block,” said Matthias Kennes, MSF head of mission 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?”

The siege imposed by the Israeli government is unconscionable. Local medical infrastructure is already weakened after 16 years of military blockade on the Gaza Strip. This siege is an intentional block on lifesaving items, leaving no respite for patients affected by the fighting, nor for medical staff. The entry of these supplies and key medical staff must be facilitated urgently.

Movement restrictions and supply shortages further impede aid for Gaza

“In Ministry of Health hospitals, medical staff report that they are running out of anesthetics and painkillers,” said 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 have no safe haven.

MSF teams are witnessing a level of destruction that may already exceed previous escalations. Two of the hospitals MSF supports, Al Awda and Indonesian hospitals, have both sustained damage in airstrikes, while MSF’s own clinic sustained damage in an explosion on Monday. 

Men, women, and children playing no role in the hostilities have no safe haven.

Today MSF is running a standalone clinic and supporting Al Awda hospital, Nasser hospital, and the Indonesian hospital in Gaza. MSF reopened an operating theater in Al-Shifa on October 10 to receive burn and trauma patients. The organization has also donated medical supplies to Al-Shifa and will continue providing support to hospitals. In the West Bank, where settler violence is escalating, MSF teams in Jenin, Hebron, and Nablus are actively assessing the medical needs. At least 27 Palestinians have been killed in settler attacks and clashes with the Israeli military. 

Civilians, civilian infrastructure, and health care facilities must be protected at all times

MSF calls on the government of Israel to cease its campaign of collective punishment against all of Gaza’s people. Israeli 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.

How MSF is responding to the war in Gaza