Israel - Gaza War: Our response
Doctors Without Borders / Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is horrified by the brutal mass killing of civilians perpetrated by Hamas, and by the massive attacks on Gaza now being pursued by Israel.
Doctors Without Borders calls for an immediate ceasefire that will spare the lives of Gazans and restore the flow of humanitarian aid on which the survival of the population of Gaza depends. We are calling for the protection of civilians and healthcare facilities on both sides, at all times.
- On 21 November, two of Doctors Without Borders doctors, Dr Mahmoud Abu Nujaila and Dr Ahmad Al Sahar, and a third doctor working with Al Awda hospital, Dr. Ziad Al-Tatari, were killed following a strike on the hospital, one of the last remaining functional hospitals in Northern Gaza.
- On 18 November, a Doctors Without Borders convoy trying to evacuate 137 people—Doctors Without Borders Palestinian staff members and their families—was attacked. A relative of a Doctors Without Borders staff died, and another one was injured.
- On 14 November, a Doctors Without Borders team of 15 international and national staff entered Gaza from Egypt via the Rafah crossing point. They will aim to support medical and surgical capacity in the Strip, where the healthcare infrastructure has collapsed, and medics are utterly exhausted.
- Escalation of violence in Israel and Palestine on 7 October resulting in thousands of fatalities and many more injuries on both sides. Millions of men, women and children are trapped in Gaza and facing a collective punishment in the form of total siege with no access to food, water, electricity and medicines.
Gaza: Trapped by days of unrelenting fighting, thousands of civilians are at risk of dying, including over a hundred Doctors Without Borders staff and their families
On 7 October, Hamas, the Palestinian militant group launched a coordinated attack on Israel which they announced was a response to the desecration of the Al-Aqsa Mosque and increased settler violence.
As a result, over 1,000 people were killed, and more than 100 were taken as hostages. In response, Israel’s military launched a series of air raids on Gaza. The following day, Israel declared “state of war”, and later announced a “total blockade” on Gaza, including ban on necessities, like water and food.
On 13 October, Israel issued a notice to more than a million residents of northern Gaza to flee south within 24 hours. Thousands of Palestinians fled to southern Gaza after Israel warned them to evacuate the north, yet they could not find safety there. Israeli airstrikes and bombings were also intense in the south.
On 21 October, following negotiations by various parties involved, the Rafah border crossing between Gaza and Egypt was opened for a short while to let 20 trucks of humanitarian deliveries in; the following day another 14 trucks reportedly crossed into Gaza. The number of trucks allowed into the Strip represents a tiny fraction of the number that crossed into the Strip daily before the war.
As of November 3, fuel is running desperately low in life-saving healthcare facilities, and in some cases its scarcity is causing intermittent disruptions in the electricity across hospitals in the Strip. According to the Ministry of Health, 14 out of 35 hospitals in the Strip are no longer functional. That’s 40% of the hospitals at a time when the needs for medical care are enormous. The Turkish Friendship hospital in northern Gaza, which Doctors Without Borders supported through mental healthcare, has been non-functional since November 1 due to a lack of fuel. This was the only public hospital for cancer patients in the strip. These people’s lives are now at serious risk. We continue to call for a lifting of the siege to allow increased and continuous humanitarian supplies to cross into Gaza, including essential items such as fuel while ensuring a safe passage to reach the people with greatest needs.
How Doctors Without Borders is responding
In the first days of the Israeli attacks on Gaza, Doctors Without Borders was running a standalone clinic, and supporting Al-Awda hospital, Nasser hospital, and the Indonesian hospital.
Doctors Without Borders reopened an operational theatre in Al-Shifa on 10 October to receive burn and trauma patients. We have also donated medical supplies to Al-Shifa Hospital and will continue providing support to hospitals. Our teams in Jenin, Hebron and Nablus are actively assessing the medical needs in the West Bank, as violence there is escalating.
Our activities in Gaza are currently very limited. Insecurity and unpredictable bombardments have made it extremely difficult to deliver aid and provide healthcare.
While some of our colleagues made the difficult decision to move south following the unacceptable order to evacuate northern Gaza, others have remained and continue to support lifesaving activities in Al Shifa Hospital, as well as in Al Nasser hospital in the south. In Al Awda hospital, a team of seven Doctors Without Borders staff is also working at the inpatient department. We are supporting local health authorities with donations from our medical stock - a $1-million donation was made in the week beginning 16 October to Al-Shifa Hospital.
Many of our Palestinian colleagues in Gaza have been directly affected by the hostilities. Some of our colleagues have lost homes; others have relatives who are missing or displaced.
Sixteen years of military blockade on the Gaza strip, the medical structures within are already weakened; this siege leaves no respite for patients caught up in the fighting, nor for medical staff. It represents an intentional block on life-saving items; the entry of these supplies and key medical staff must be facilitated urgently.
We are committed to supporting the people affected by the heavy bombardments and indiscriminate attacks on Gaza. We continue preparing medical and humanitarian supplies, and mobilising emergency teams to send to Gaza whenever the situation is possible.
- Is Doctors Without Borders providing medical care in Israel?
We are a humanitarian organisation, which means we treat everyone who needs help, but our resources are not unlimited: we focus them where they are needed the most. We do not currently run medical programs in Israel. However, we are taking every available opportunity to send fresh humanitarian supplies into the Strip, where healthcare facilities urgently need them. The Palestinian healthcare systems, both in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, have been crippled by over 70 years of occupation and over ten years of blockade. They are unable to meet the basic health needs of their respective populations. In contrast, Israel has an excellent healthcare system and has not requested support from Doctors Without Borders at this time.
- What is Doctors Without Borders doing in Palestine prior to the 7 October conflict?
In the Palestinian Territories, Doctors Without Borders provides medical and psychological assistance to people affected by the long-term conflict since 1989. In Gaza, our teams work in three hospitals and several outpatient clinics, offering comprehensive care for people suffering from burns and trauma, which includes surgery, physiotherapy, psychological support, occupational therapy, and health education. Since 2018, Doctors Without Borders has been running a reconstructive surgery program in northern Gaza.
- Does Doctors Without Borders have staff in Gaza? What’s their situation?
All Doctors Without Borders international staff unable to leave Gaza since 7 October have successfully crossed the Egypt border via the Rafah Crossing. A window has been negotiated to allow for foreign passport holders and international aid workers to cross.
A new team of international staff, including a specialised medical team, has already been identified and is ready to enter Gaza as soon as the situation allows, to support the humanitarian and medical response.
As for our Palestinian staff, it is currently difficult to verify the situation of all our 300 colleagues. We know that some of them are currently trying to leave for the south with their families. Doctors Without Borders is trying to help them find shelter. Others, notably medical staff, remain in the north and continue to treat the sick and wounded. We do what we can to remain in contact with them.
The evacuation order given by the Israeli army to the 1.1 million people in the north of the Gaza Strip is an outrageous and irresponsible ultimatum. Moreover, regrouping such many people in just a few square kilometres will only exacerbate the preexisting humanitarian crisis.
- What is happening in the West Bank?
Violent clashes have been breaking out between Israeli forces and settlers and Palestinians in various locations, particularly in Jerusalem, Hebron, Nablus, and Ramallah. As of 23 October, 94 were killed and 1,700 wounded since the conflict started on 7 October. Israeli armed forces announced the West Bank as a closed area. Checkpoints remain closed and workers are not allowed to cross to Israel. Work permits of Palestinians were suspended, and many were ordered to leave Israel. Our team in Hebron is in contact with the Ministry of Health and hospitals in the West Bank to assess their needs daily.
In the meantime, we’re preparing some donations to deliver to health facilities. In addition, we are providing remote mental health support to the population including psychological first aid services and counselling to help reduce stress during this conflict. We’re also in contact with community focal points, for them to raise any major need for us to respond to.
Scroll through the conflict timeline
Will you support our emergency response work?
Help us provide lifesaving medical care during emergencies by making a donation today.