Last updated on December 1, 2023
All over Gaza, Palestinians are suffering under Israeli siege and bombardment, losing loved ones, homes, and their own lives while world leaders fail to take meaningful action. Among them are Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) staff members, many of whom continue to work and provide lifesaving care in hospitals and health centers across Gaza. They share their stories with us below.
NOVEMBER 26 - 29
“They started opening fire at us”
“When we arrived at Al Wahida Street, I saw tanks and snipers at the top of the buildings. I was terrified when I saw that the snipers and the tanks were pointing their weapons at us, especially at the fourth and the fifth van [in the convoy].
They started opening fire at us and when a bullet grazed my forehead, I got a superficial injury. The bullet hit my colleague Alaa in the head, he sat next to me. He got a critical head injury and started bleeding massively.
His head fell on the steering [wheel] and I immediately retook control of the [vehicle] to move to the right of the street.” Read more >
“The only remnant of his family”
“Since the war started until now, I have been working non-stop, 24 hours, all the days. Can you imagine to receive 100 cases or 200 cases a day, sometimes 500 injured patients a day?
And the problem now is becoming more difficult because other hospitals have been evacuated. All the patients came to us. The cases that we see, the majority of patients are female and children.
[It] hurt me a lot when I [saw] a child, an innocent child, injured and he needs major surgery—he lost his limb. And he’s the last child. He’s the only remnant of his family. And when he woke up from anesthesia, he asked to see his family. So this is really a heartbreaking situation.”
"The ones who were not dead will likely die very soon."
“We arrived a few days ago and we resume our operation in Nasser Hospital. If I take the example of yesterday [18 November], there were some airstrikes over Khan Younis. And just during the time when we were at the hospital, we received mass casualties. That means a lot of ambulances arriving together with the injured people, wounded people. All those injured trauma cases were very severe or dead. And the ones who were not dead, will likely die very soon. And among them, a lot of children with very, very bad injuries.
"So it’s very tense even in the south and airstrikes and bombs are all around. So without any fuel entering Gaza, we will not be able to continue to run our activity or it would be very, very challenging. Many of our Palestinian colleagues continue to work tirelessly in Gaza.
"An immediate ceasefire is needed to prevent more deaths and to allow a flow of humanitarian aid inside the Strip.”
“Lives vanish in a split second here”
“It’s difficult to describe what is happening around us. Humanitarian needs are immense. There’s no gas, and without gas, nothing can move. You can’t cook food, the treatment plants of water do not function properly so there is not enough water to drink. Conditions of hygiene [and] sanitation are very precarious, and IDPs [internally displaced people] are everywhere. The density of the population is incredible. Houses that we saw yesterday, for example, driving down the street, are no longer there and it’s incredible to think that lives vanish in a split second here.
First day that we were here, 750 patients walked in. The team of MSF was able to see a quarter of them. It’s incredible to see how the local community and the local health practitioners carry on their work in the midst of very difficult conditions. The MSF team is here to stay and support the population as much as possible in these very dire conditions.”
"They asked many times to evacuate this hospital. And we don’t. I mean, we cannot."
"We have a lot of, hundreds of wounded patients. We receive a lot of injuries from air strike attacks. Sometimes we receive traumatic amputations, you know, after explosives. Actually, we started a week ago to use, for example, vinegar to treat infections.
"I don’t have a house now, because they damaged my house. I don’t have any option to go outside Al-Quds. The internet, and cell phone communication are lost during the night. So we are very worried and very concerned about our families. We have difficulties in this hospital because explosions happen all the time around us.
"They asked many times to evacuate this hospital. And we don’t. I mean, we cannot because they don’t say where to evacuate and how to evacuate our patients. And we have thousands of civilian people in the hospital. How to convince them to go outside? Where? Where to go?"
NOVEMBER 10 - 11
“We are alone now. No one hears us”
"We're on the fourth floor. There's a sniper who attacked four patients inside the hospital. One of the patients has a gunshot wound directly in his neck, and he is a quadriplegic, and the other one [was shot] in the abdomen [...] We have two neonate patients who died, because the incubator is not working because there is no electricity. Also we have an adult patient in the ICU, he died because the ventilator shut down, because there is no electricity."
Hours earlier, he explained why he was not leaving the hospital:
"We cannot leave. If I am not here or the other surgeon, who will take care of the patients? […] We cannot evacuate ourselves and [leave] these people inside. As a doctor, I swear to help the people who need help. So if they want to bomb me, I will not be better than the others." Read Dr. Obeid's full testimony >
“I can't leave if you're shooting at me.”
“Do not fire at this hospital.
Do not hit civilians, do not hit patients, do not kill patients.
Do not prevent us from taking our patients.
They initially hit the children's inpatient department on the second floor. They also hit the first floor, water tanks, electricity, and oxygen extractors.
Life in Al-Nasr Hospital stopped. The equipment for the children in intensive care, relying on ventilators, stopped working. There was no more oxygen.
The army started randomly firing on us with shells landing near the mosque and the wall, making it impossible for anyone to know what to do.” Read more >
“The hospital is almost collapsing”
"Doctors, nurses, and the medical staff have been exhausted for 23 days. There is no drugs, there is no disposables, a lot of shortages. Surgeons are operating on the ground, on the floor, they are operating everywhere. There is no anesthetic drugs, they are operating without it. There is no painkillers, there is no post-operative care."
“We amputated him in front of his mother and his sister”
"We lack instruments and we have a lot of cases, so we just amputated under slight sedation. The anesthetist tried to keep the boy’s mouth open to prevent strangulation. We amputated him in front of his mother and his sister because there is no space and the sister was waiting to be operated on next. You cannot imagine. This girl, this 13-year-old waiting for an operation, looking at me as I am amputating the mid-foot of her brother."
“The health sector is about to fail. It’s imminent.”
"We have more than 40,000 civilians who came to the hospital seeking some level of safety. The Israeli army asked for all the hospitals in Gaza to be evacuated. This order is senseless, because more than 3,000 wounded patients cannot be evacuated to any place."
“God help us in this difficult time.”
"There is no safe place here and the situation is extremely difficult: no safety, no bread, no water, and no electricity since the beginning of the war up until now. God help us in this difficult time.
"At this moment, we do not have any drinkable water; the water we have is polluted and not safe to drink. We don’t even have fuel to pump water from the wells. Our families and kids are being displaced from the north to the south and from the south to anywhere else. We do not have any safe place to stay.
"We delivered medical supplies to Al Shifa hospital in Gaza City two days ago. [Reaching] the hospital was very tough. We saw hundreds of people taking shelter in the hospital and it was difficult to walk inside. It took us a lot of time to deliver the supplies.
"There were huge numbers of people inside the hospital; they think the hospital is a safe place, but there is no safe place. The majority of the injuries are very critical. There is not enough space. Patients who need surgery are lying on the floor.
"I decided to stay in my home because there is no safe place in Gaza. My house is close to the MSF office and clinic.
"The majority of my family decided to move to the center of Gaza and to the south. A large number of the people who moved south are returning now to their homes, because they have suffered a lot being homeless. Again: no electricity, no water, and the situation is extremely tense for people in the south.
"I am still working on a daily basis at the burn clinic with MSF. We still receive some patients with burns. I do the dressings for them. It is difficult for them to come back again so I prepare kits for them and I show them how to do it themselves. This is at least something I can help with as a nurse."
A day in the life of a mother in Gaza
"Words fail to describe a day in the life for people in Gaza right now. The morning starts while we are already awake. We toss and turn and try to sleep for a while, but the sound of bombs won’t allow it.
"We lay awake, listening to the news on the radio. In this modern age, we should have electricity and internet access, but our phones are dead. We run to see whether there is fuel to turn on the generator, and then realize that the generator is dead, too. Here, we acknowledge that we live in besieged Gaza.
"I slowly comprehend the sound of my child’s voice: ‘Mum, I am hungry, I want to have breakfast.'
"While making breakfast with the bare minimum of supplies, I start to blame myself for having children and bringing them into a world with such dire conditions and frequent wars—especially this miserable war.
"When you have children, you do your best to protect them and provide them with everything. When you hear the sound of bombs falling, you are supposed to be a strong parent; to remain calm for your kids. But the truth is, you are really in need of someone to calm you down.
"We dread nightfall. The Israeli drones, warplanes, warships, heavy rockets, and bombs spread like wildfire. After trying to calm myself and my children down, who awake many times crying, I think about my father, mother, and family, who are sheltering far away, but under the same circumstances.
"You try to think positively, that they are far away from the targeted bombs, but it’s in vain. I will be worried until I hear their voices."
"We were for two hours searching for drinkable water"
"People often come to us asking if we have information, but we don't have any either."
"I am currently in the south of the Gaza Strip with several thousand Palestinians. We all came to take refuge here yesterday after an announcement from the Israeli [military] asking everyone in the northern Gaza Strip to evacuate. So in the middle of the night, we urgently went on site. We set up an emergency evacuation plan and left in a convoy of 300 cars at 8:00 a.m." Read more of Louis' story.
"As you can hear, the strikes are ongoing while we speak"
What health workers in Gaza are facing
MSF anesthesia advisor Cliff Roberson (not based in Gaza) has been in contact with our medical colleagues in Gaza when possible. On October 24, he shared what they are going through as the situation in health facilities worsens:
"It's very difficult for [our staff] to balance the role of a health care provider and a head of family usually. It's very, very difficult to perform their duties as well as to take care of their families. When they leave for work every day, they think to themselves that this may be the last time they see their family or for themselves, it may be the last day of their life. Working under such stressful conditions with that sort of underlying concern really is unimaginable."
On October 19, MSF's medical coordinator for Palestine, Guillemette Thomas (based in Jerusalem) shared an update on the state of health care in Gaza:
"We are already witnessing the collapse of patient care. The medical staff can no longer treat people or admit new patients properly. Everything is being done in extremely poor conditions, with a shortage of staff, drugs, and medical equipment. There are constant flows of patients and seriously injured people, with complex trauma wounds, burns, fractures, and crushed limbs."