Israeli airstrikes kill civilians and damage MSF clinic in Gaza

MSF urges Israel to stop these attacks on Gaza

Damage to MSF clinic in Gaza

Palestinian Territories 2021 © MSF

On Sunday, May 16, 2021, Israeli airstrikes on Gaza killed at least 42 people, including 10 children, according to the Gaza Ministry of Health, and damaged a Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) trauma and burns care clinic, the international medical humanitarian organization said today. No one was injured in MSF’s clinic, but the bombing destroyed a sterilization room and damaged a waiting area. The clinic was forced to close.

An MSF staff member who was at the clinic during the airstrikes described a scene of utter horror: huge explosions shook the neighborhood and women and children ran out onto the street screaming and crying.

“The situation has already been horrible this week, with the number of civilian casualties rising daily, but when I saw the damage to the area and the MSF clinic the morning after the attack, I was speechless,” said Dr. Mohammed Abu Mughaiseeb, MSF’s deputy medical coordinator in Gaza. “Everything was impacted—houses, roads, trees. The clinic, where we see over 1,000 children a year with burn and trauma injuries, was missing a wall and debris was lying everywhere. The clinic is now closed not just because of the damage to its structure but also because the road to access it has been destroyed and the area is still unsafe.”

Access to healthcare for people with life-threatening injuries is severely restricted as Israeli airstrikes have damaged many roads leading to hospitals. In addition, many medical staff are concerned for their safety while traveling to work, and some medical supplies are running low. Two doctors were among the 42 people killed in the airstrikes near MSF’s clinic.

Violence in the region has escalated sharply over the past week as Israel launched an aerial assault on Gaza in response to rocket attacks fired by Palestinian armed groups based in the coastal enclave.

As of midday on May 17, at least 200 people in Gaza have been killed, including 59 children, according to the Ministry of Health. Ten people, including two children, in Israel have been killed by rockets and missiles fired from Gaza by Palestinian armed groups. More than 38,000 Palestinians have fled their homes for safety, according to the United Nations, and at least 2,500 people have become homeless, including MSF staff members. Some MSF staff have found refuge in homes of relatives, and MSF has found temporary shelter for those who could not.

“The horrendous attacks on civilians and civilian infrastructure that we are witnessing in Gaza are inexcusable and intolerable,” said Ely Sok, MSF’s head of mission in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. “The situation is critical. The number of wounded and displaced people is mounting while additional humanitarian personnel and supplies still cannot enter Gaza. The local health authority is reporting being 24 hours away from running out of blood bags, meaning they cannot transfuse patients with blood, a key intervention in caring for war wounded.”

An MSF team is working in 24-hour shifts to support the medical staff in the emergency room and operating theaters of Al-Awda hospital, in the area of Jabalia, and are treating 40 to 45 patients with deep wounds and severe burns daily. MSF also donated medical supplies to various medical facilities in the Gaza Strip last week. Insecurity means that we cannot operate our normal burns and post-operative trauma care programs.

“Israel needs to stop these attacks in the heart of Gaza as we have seen time and again that they kill civilians no matter how ‘targeted’ they are,” said Sok. “In such a densely populated place it is not possible to limit the effects of the bombing. Safe access for humanitarian staff and supplies also needs to be urgently arranged.”