Gaza: The Siege Must Be Lifted To Allow Medical Humanitarian Aid In.
Since the collapse of the fragile truce in the Gaza Strip on 1 December, aerial and ground attacks by Israeli forces have resulted in hundreds of people killed and injured.
Hospitals in south Gaza are overflowing with hundreds of injured people as Israeli forces step up bombardment. Two hospitals supported by Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF) – Al-Aqsa in the Middle Area and Nasser in the south of the Strip – where MSF Palestinian and international staff are working and living, are barely able to cope with the influx of patients. On average 150 to 200 war-wounded patients are arriving daily since 1 December.
“There are 700 patients admitted in the hospital now, with new patients arriving all the time. We are treating people with blast injuries and burns and we are running out of essential supplies to treat them,” said Marie-Aure Perreaut Revial, MSF Emergency Coordinator in Gaza.
Fuel and medical supplies have reached critically low levels at Al-Aqsa hospital due to road closures.“Shortages of medicines and fuel could result in the hospital being unable to provide life-saving surgeries or intensive care. Without electricity, ventilators would cease to function, blood donations would have to stop, the sterilisation of surgical instruments would be impossible”, said Perreaut Revial. “It is vital that the supply of humanitarian supplies be facilitated. The hospital urgently needs surgical sets, external fixators to hold broken bones together, and essential drugs, including drugs for chronic illnesses.”
“We hear bombing around us, day and night,” said Katrien Claeys, MSF team leader. “In the last 48 hours, over 100 dead and over 400 injured people arrived at the emergency room of Al-Aqsa hospital. Some patients were taken for surgery right away.”
When injured patients overflow the hospital, services treating people whose conditions are not immediately life-threatening must be deprioritised. MSF teams have set up a temporary wound dressing unit within Al-Aqsa hospital to provide wound management to patients with chronic wounds, or injuries from domestic accidents or previous attacks. “We see patients with signs of infection and necrotic tissue, as they have not received a change of wound dressing in days and sometimes weeks,” said Claeys.
Nasser hospital, in Khan Younis, where MSF teams provide surgical care to patients with trauma and burn injuries, is now at breaking point due to the continuous influx of new patients.
“The hospital has been receiving multiple severely injured patients nearly every hour,” said Chris Hook, MSF medical coordinator in Khan Younis. “With the situation as it is in the hospital – there is no available space anymore – it really is a terrible situation. Everyone is genuinely worried about what will come next.”
As Israel’s aerial and ground offensives move south, people in some neighbourhoods in the Middle Area and Khan Younis have been ordered to evacuate further south, towards Rafah, along the Egyptian border. MSF has had to suspend our medical support to Martyrs and Beni Suhaila clinics, as they are in areas under the evacuation order.
“Every day, Israeli authorities order a new neighbourhood to evacuate, asking people to move to another city, further and further south,” said an internally displaced member of MSF staff in Khan Younis. “Even during the truce, people were not allowed to go back north to their homes. Only three or four neighbourhoods remain accessible and all of them are overcrowded.”
The majority of 1.8 million internally displaced people in the Strip have sought shelter in the south of Gaza, where they currently live in appalling conditions. Many civilians have already been displaced several times since 7 October. They have nowhere to go to as nowhere is safe.
Gaining access to essential services, including healthcare, has become extremely challenging for people in the south of Gaza. Tight movement restrictions, imposed by the Israeli forces and ongoing heavy shelling and bombing, prevent people from seeking medical help in time, while also hindering our teams’ capacity to respond.
“In a military campaign that has lasted weeks, with only a brief respite, the speed and scale of the bombing continue to plumb the depths of brutality”, said Hook. “Almost two million people are left without options. The only solution is an immediate and sustained ceasefire, the siege must be lifted; medical humanitarian supplies and aid must urgently be supplied to the Gaza Strip in its entirety.”
Notes to the editor
More than 15,899 people in Gaza have been killed, 70% of which are women and children, according to Gaza’s health authorities.
MSF is working in two hospitals, Nasser and Al-Aqsa hospitals. In Nasser Hospital, we provide emergency care and surgical treatment, including to patients with traumatic injuries and severe burn injuries. We also support the Emergency Department and ICU. In Al Aqsa hospital, in the Middle Area, we started activities in support of the hospital’s staff. We are working on wound dressings and outpatient consultations for patients with blast injuries and burns.
In the West Bank, MSF teams also report attacks on healthcare with a surge in violence, persecution, and harassment. According to the United Nations over 200 Palestinians have been killed since 7 October, either by Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) or settlers.