NEW YORK, February 9, 2024—As the Israeli government directed its military today to carry out a major operation in Rafah and evacuate civilians, the international medical humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is deeply concerned about the safety and wellbeing of the nearly 1.5 million Palestinians who are currently living in that region.
Throughout the four-month conflict, Israel has told people to evacuate from all other areas of Gaza to the south, including Rafah. Now, there is no place that is safe in Gaza and no way for people to leave.
MSF is currently operational in four hospitals in the south: An-Najar Hospital, Rafah Indonesian Field Hospital, European Gaza Hospital, and Emirati Maternity Hospital, one primary health care facility called Al-Shaboura Clinic, and two health posts in Al Mawasi in the Rafah area. Elsewhere in Gaza, MSF supports Nasser Hospital and Al-Aqsa Hospital in Khan Younis and two hospitals in the north, Al-Awda Hospital and Al-Shifa Hospital.
Avril Benoît, executive director of MSF-USA, said today:
"Israel’s declared ground offensive on Rafah would be catastrophic and must not proceed.
“As aerial bombardment of the area continues, more than a million people—many living in tents and makeshift shelters—now face a dramatic escalation in this ongoing massacre. Nowhere in Gaza is safe, and repeated forced displacements have pushed people to Rafah, where they are trapped in a tiny patch of land and have no options.
“Since October 7, our medical teams and patients have been forced to evacuate nine different health care facilities in the Gaza Strip after coming under fire from tanks, artillery, fighter jets, snipers, and ground troops, or being subject to evacuation orders. Medical staff and patients have been arrested, abused, and killed. All of this has taken place in full view of world leaders.
“It has now become nearly impossible to work in Gaza as all our attempts to provide lifesaving care to Palestinians have been diminished by Israel's conduct of hostilities. The needs are overwhelming, and the situation requires a safe humanitarian response at a much larger scale.
“We call on the government of Israel to immediately halt this offensive, and to all supporting governments like the United States to take concrete action to bring about a complete and sustained ceasefire. Political rhetoric is not enough.”