Patients and medical staff trapped in hospitals under fire in Gaza

12 Nov 2023

Over the past 24 hours, hospitals in Gaza have been under relentless bombardment. Al-Shifa hospital complex, the biggest health facility where MSF staff are still working, has been hit several times, including the maternity and outpatient departments, resulting in multiple deaths and injuries. The hostilities around the hospital have not stopped. MSF teams and hundreds of patients are still inside Al-Shifa hospital. 

MSF urgently reiterates its calls to stop the attacks against hospitals, for an immediate ceasefire and for the protection of medical facilities, medical staff and patients. 

“We are being killed here, please do something" texted one of MSF nurse from Al-Shifa hospital basement this morning, where he and his family were sheltering from the incessant bombing. “four or five families are sheltering now in the basement, the shelling is so close, my kids are crying and screaming in fear.”

The situation in Al-Shifa is truly catastrophic. We call on the Israeli Government to cease this unrelenting assault on Gaza’s health system. Our staff and patients are inside Al-Shifa hospital where the heavy bombing has not stopped since yesterday.

Ann Taylor
MSF Head of Mission, Occupied Palestinian Territories
MSF teams working in Al-Shifa hospital

Hospitals under attack

Al-Shifa hospital is the principal hospital complex in Gaza Strip, with 700 beds, providing emergency and surgical care. There are currently no other facilities in the Strip able to admit and treat as many patients with complex, sometimes life-threatening injuries. Despite regular attacks and shortages, the staff has managed to keep the hospital operational. Yesterday, Al-Shifa hospital lost electrical power. The ambulances can no longer move to collect the injured, and non-stop bombardment prevents patients and staff from evacuating. At the time of writing, our staff are witnessing people being shot at as they attempt to flee the hospital. 

"There are a lot of patients already operated on and they cannot walk. They cannot evacuate. We need an ambulance to move them, we don't have ambulances to evacuate all of these patients. We cannot leave because from [yesterday] morning until now, we operated on about 25 patients" explains Dr Mohammed Obeid, MSF surgeon at Al-Shifa hospital.

If I am not here or the other surgeon, who will take care of the patients?

Dr Mohammed Obeid
MSF surgeon at Al-Shifa hospital

MSF denounces the death warrant of civilians currently trapped in Al-Shifa hospital signed by the Israeli military. There needs to be an urgent and unconditional ceasefire from all warring parties; humanitarian aid must be supplied to the entirety of the Gaza Strip now.

MSF has lost contact with a surgeon, working and sheltering in Al-Quds hospital with his family. Other health facilities, including Al Rantisi hospital which MSF has also supported in the past, were reportedly surrounded by Israeli tanks.

Calling for an ceasefire now

We urge the US, UK, Canada, Australia, Member states of the League of Arab States, Member states of the Organisation of the Islamic Cooperation and the European Union who have repeatedly called for the respect of International Humanitarian Law (IHL) to take action to ensure a ceasefire now.

The horrors unfolding before our eyes in Gaza clearly show that calls for restraint and adherence to IHL have gone unheeded. Working purposefully to reach a ceasefire is the most effective way to ensure the protection of civilians.

Thousands of people have been wounded since 7 October, many of whom are in critical condition and will require complex surgeries and sustained treatment for weeks, if not months. This can only be done with a total ceasefire and the unconditional supply of humanitarian aid including access to food, fuel and water; the survival of people in Gaza depends on this.

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