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MSF: Violence in Gaza escalates despite calls for a ceasefire

Patients, health workers, and hospitals must be protected

Wreckage after Israeli airstrikes in Gaza in October 2023.

October 28, 2023, New York—As the Israeli military expands its ground operations in Gaza and civilians there endure the heaviest bombardment since the start of the war between Israel and Hamas, the international medical humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) today reiterated its call for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza to prevent more deaths and allow the entry of desperately needed humanitarian supplies.

Intense bombardment caused a near total communications blackout across Gaza starting on October 27, cutting off internet and cellular phone connections. The disruption to communications further isolates a population suffering under siege and bombardment, and further limits the ability to coordinate and provide medical assistance, said MSF. People trapped under the rubble of collapsed buildings, pregnant women who are about to deliver, and older people with limited mobility are not able to seek help when they need it most. Because of the blackout, MSF has now lost contact with most of its staff members in Gaza.

There is no safe space in Gaza

“Helpless people are being subjected to horrific bombing,” said MSF International President Dr. Christos Christou. “Families have nowhere to run or to hide, as hell is unleashed on them. Water, food, fuel, medical supplies, and humanitarian aid in Gaza need to be urgently restored. We need a ceasefire now.”

Actions taken by world leaders are too weak and too slow. The UN General Assembly resolution calling for a humanitarian truce has done nothing so far to rein in the widespread and indiscriminate violence against civilians in Gaza. The international community must take stronger action to stop the bloodshed.

Northern Gaza is being razed to the ground, but the entire Strip is also being bombed. There is no safe place in Gaza for civilians to take shelter, said MSF. People are being killed and forcibly displaced from their homes, and water and fuel are running dangerously low. Atrocities are being committed on a scale never before seen in Gaza.

An injured boy rests his bandaged head on his father's shoulder at Al Shifa Hospital in Gaza
An injured child at Al-Shifa Hospital in October 2023.
Palestine 2023 © MSF

Hospitals are running out of medical supplies. Earlier this week, Dr. Mohammed Obeid, an MSF surgeon in Gaza, described the following: “Hospitals are flooded with patients. Amputations and surgeries are being carried out without proper anesthesia. And morgues are flooded with dead bodies.”

Al Shifa Hospital must be protected under international humanitarian law

Across Gaza, the number of injured people in need of urgent medical assistance far exceeds the capacity of the health system, which currently has around 3,500 beds. According to the local Ministry of Health, more than 7,760 people have been killed and 21,400 people have been injured in Gaza since October 7. So many victims in such a short  time is unheard of, even compared with previous large-scale Israeli offensives. 

Health facilities such as Al Shifa Hospital in Gaza City, where some MSF staff continue to work, are overwhelmed with patients. Israeli military orders to evacuate hospitals across northern Gaza are dangerous and inhumane. As of Friday night, Al Shifa Hospital was at full capacity with patients seeking medical treatment, and tens of thousands of others seeking safe shelter. Under international humanitarian law, patients, health workers, and health facilities must be protected at all times.

MSF teams treat patients at Al Shifa hospital in Gaza during Israeli bombardment in October 2023
Palestine 2023 © Mohammad Masri

Vastly inadequate response to humanitarian needs at Rafah

The entire population of Gaza, more than 2.2 million people, are suffering under the Israeli siege. This is collective punishment, which is prohibited under international humanitarian law. 

Israeli authorities continue to prevent the entry of fuel into Gaza, which is essential for powering hospitals as well as the desalination plants that produce clean drinking water. The siege will compound the deaths caused by the strikes, as medics will be forced to make impossible decisions about who to treat with extremely limited resources, and people are left without adequate food, water, or medicines.

Displaced Palestinians in Gaza during Israeli siege and bombardment in October 2023.
Displaced Palestinians. Palestine 2023 © MSF

Prior to October 7, between 300 to 500 supply trucks crossed into Gaza every day, where most people were already dependent on humanitarian aid due to a years long blockade. Since the Rafah border crossing reopened on October 21, only 84 aid trucks have entered Gaza, according to the UN humanitarian agency. This is a vastly inadequate response to the constant and growing needs in Gaza.

People who want to seek safety across the border should be allowed to do so without prejudice to their right to return to Gaza.

Many of MSF’s 300 staff members have been displaced as they move to find shelter for their families away from the bombing. However many colleagues continue to work and provide lifesaving care in hospitals and health centers across the Gaza Strip. Warring parties must ensure the safety of hospitals, health workers, and patients.

“We are ready to increase our aid capacity in Gaza,” said Dr. Christou. “We have teams on standby ready to send medical supplies and to enter Gaza to support the emergency medical response, as soon as the situation allows it. But as long as the bombing continues with the current intensity, any effort to increase medical aid will inevitably fall short.”  

The video below was taken the day before intense bombardment caused a near total communications blackout across Gaza starting on October 27.

How MSF is responding to the war in Gaza

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