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Palestinians in the West Bank face death and displacement as violence escalates

In the West Bank, reverberations of war in Gaza

Damage to a watermelon construction in a roundabout in Jenin, next to a Palestinian flag.

Damage to a symbol of Palestinian pride, the watermelon, in Jenin on November 6. | Palestine 2023 © Faris Al-Jawad/MSF

UPDATE: On the night of November 8-9, an Israeli soldier fired at the emergency unit of Jenin hospital, hitting the wall in full view of MSF team members standing outside. The following morning, our team witnessed Israeli forces firing at the entrance of the hospital, with bullets hitting the wall directly above the door. Our teams treated a paramedic who was shot while inside an ambulance, and Israeli military vehicles blocked ambulances from entering hospitals. Leaflets were dropped on Jenin refugee camp telling residents to evacuate. Many have no safe place to go. 

Hospitals are not targets and must remain safe spaces. Medical care must not be impeded. We call on the Israeli military to stop firing on hospitals and to stop their military vehicles from blocking ambulances and medical staff from reaching health care facilities.

It’s 2:30 a.m. and doctors are huddling outside the entrance of Jenin hospital in the West Bank, occupied Palestine.

A brief lull in the ricocheting gunfire is followed by the sound of men shouting and tires screeching as a three-wheeled auto-rickshaw, or tuk-tuk, turns into the gates of the hospital. Young men with bullet holes in their abdomens and thighs emerge from the vehicle and are pushed to the emergency room on stretchers. They are examined, bandaged, and rushed to the operating theater.  

“Most of the patients we receive have been shot in the abdomen and the legs,” says Dr. Pedro Serrano, an intensive care unit (ICU) doctor with Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF). “Some have had their liver and spleen shattered while others have severe vascular injuries.” 

Since the start of the devastating war on Gaza, more than 150 Palestinians, including 44 children, have been killed by Israeli forces or settlers in the West Bank, according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). This adds to more than 10,300 killed in Gaza during the same time period. 

“The violence is ongoing and most patients we receive have life-threatening injuries,” adds Dr. Serrano. “We had one very sad case of a guy who was walking just outside the hospital entrance when he was shot in the head by a sniper.” 

MSF staff and local paramedics inspect the remnants of a mosque that was destroyed in an airstrike in Jenin refugee camp in the West Bank, Palestine.
MSF staff and local paramedics inspect the remains of a mosque destroyed in an airstrike on Jenin refugee camp in October. Palestine 2023 © Faris Al-Jawad/MSF

Emergency care in Jenin

In Jenin, the public hospital has called for MSF emergency doctors nearly every night, as Israeli incursions with tanks and ground troops batter the city. Over the past month, Israeli forces have killed 30 people and injured at least 162 more in Jenin alone. 

Local paramedics at Jenin refugee camp use a tuk-tuk donated by MSF to weave through its narrow alleyways to collect the wounded. Israeli forces often block the entrance of the camp, making it nearly impossible for ambulances to get in and out with the critically wounded in time to save their lives. 

Outside the hospital, a group of paramedics stare into the buzzing night beside an ambulance pierced by bullet holes. One says they were shot at while attempting to reach wounded people in the camp, which forced them to evacuate the ambulance and take cover for 20 minutes until the Israeli forces left.  

The trail of destruction continues throughout the city of Jenin, where infrastructure and Palestinian monuments have been destroyed, including by bulldozers and tanks.  

Displaced Gazans in the West Bank

As many as 6,000 Gazans who were working in Israel before the war are now living in displacement centers across the West Bank after having their work permits canceled

MSF teams visit these displacement centers to donate medical supplies, including medications for non-communicable diseases, and provide mental health support. Some patients have told MSF staff that they were beaten, humiliated, and abused while being detained by Israeli forces in the weeks since October 7. 

“We have treated some patients who showed signs of being tied up and beaten, reportedly by Israeli forces,” says Yanis Anagnostou, MSF mental health activity manager in Jenin. “They report being tormented for several hours before being left at the West Bank border.”

Facing mental health consequences in Hebron

In Hebron governorate to the south, violence involving Israeli forces and settlers, forcible displacement, and restrictions on people's movements have impacted every aspect of daily life. Local Palestinians have told MSF teams, who have worked in the area since 2001, that they feel unsafe even walking down their own streets and that their access to basic services, including food and health care, is heavily restricted. 

Since October 7, more than 900 Palestinians in the West Bank—from across 111 families—have fled their homes due to violence and intimidation by Israeli forces and settlers, according to the UN. In South Hebron Hills, two of the dozens of displaced families were forced to leave after settlers burnt their homes, stole solar panels and water barrels, and cut water pipes. 

The toll of settler violence on Palestinians in the West Bank

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MSF teams based in Hebron are also providing families with essential relief items, including blankets, mattresses, and heaters, as well as mental health support for people who have been exposed to violence or forcibly displaced from their homes. 

“One woman, whose home was burned to the ground, told me how unsafe, afraid, and insecure she still feels,” says Mariam Qabas, MSF health promotion supervisor in Hebron. “She told me: ‘I never thought of leaving my land or house like this, but I cannot risk my sons and my family. I cannot see the future. I feel helpless and powerless.’ These are completely normal reactions to such abnormal circumstances.”  

As the bombardment and collective punishment of people in Gaza continue unabated, and the lawlessness and bloodshed spill over to the West Bank, the need for a ceasefire and humanitarian truce is more desperate than ever. 

"We are powerless"

In addition to calling for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza, MSF urges Israeli authorities to put an end to the violence and forced displacement of Palestinians in the West Bank, and to stop implementing restrictive measures that impede their ability to access basic services, including medical care.  

Zouhair, like many other Gazans displaced across the West Bank, has been following the events in Gaza from a crowded sports hall in Jenin, where he and hundreds of other displaced workers sleep.  
“Today, our suffering is that we are away from our children and our families,” he says. “We speak to our children back in Gaza and we cry. I wish they would send me back to Gaza, where my children and grandchildren are. Our suffering is that we are powerless, and we can’t do anything.” 

Palestine: "The situation can never be the same"

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How MSF is responding

MSF’s medical and humanitarian activities in the West Bank have been affected by the escalation of violence and reinforced movement restrictions that limit people’s access to essential services, including health care. To adapt to the situation, MSF medical teams are providing phone consultations for Palestinian residents and displaced people, and referring patients for medical treatment, mental health care, and social services. MSF mental health teams are also providing psychological first aid, counseling, and psychotherapy.  

MSF has donated medical supplies, including surgical kits, to Ahli Hospital in Hebron, and first aid kits to community focal points in Beit Ummar, Al-Rashaydeh, and an emergency care center in Um Al-Khair. Our teams also provide training for staff at Al Mohtaseb Hospital in the Old City of Hebron. MSF continues to assess the situation in hospitals across the West Bank in addition to its broader response to the Israel-Gaza war.

Destructions in Jenin Nov 2023
A young boy moves a mattress along a damaged road in Jenin refugee camp after Israeli forces entered the camp with bulldozers and tanks, destroying several roads and symbolic pieces of architecture in Jenin City. Jenin, West Bank, 6 November, 2023.

How MSF is responding to the war in Gaza