Gaza: Israeli attack on MSF shelter kills two and injures six

Doctors Without Borders (MSF) condemns in the strongest possible terms the killing of two MSF staff family members during an Israeli offensive on Al-Mawasi, Khan Younis, Gaza. Six other people were injured in the attack.

Late on the evening of 20 February, Israeli forces conducted a military operation in Al-Mawasi, located on Gaza’s coastline, during which an Israeli tank fired on a house sheltering MSF colleagues and their families. The attack killed the daughter-in-law and wife of one of our colleagues, and injured six people, five of whom were women or children. Bullets were also fired at the clearly marked MSF building, hitting the front gate, the building’s exterior, and the interior of the ground floor.

"We are outraged and deeply saddened by these killings,” says Meinie Nicolai, MSF General Director, who is currently coordinating MSF medical activities in Gaza. “On the same day the United States chose to veto an immediate ceasefire, two daughters saw their mother and sister-in-law killed by an Israeli tank shell.”

“These killings underscore the grim reality that nowhere in Gaza is safe, that promises of safe areas are empty and deconfliction mechanisms unreliable,” says Nicolai. “The amount of force being used in densely populated urban environments is staggering, and targeting a building knowing it is full of humanitarian workers and their families is unconscionable.”

On the night of 20-21 February 2024, Israeli forces conducted an operation in Al Mawasi, Khan Younis, Gaza, where a shelter hosting MSF staff and their families was shelled. While details are still emerging, ambulance crews have reached the site, where at least two family members of our colleagues have been killed and six people wounded. Photographer: Mohammed Abed | 21/02/2024 | Khan Younis, Gaza
On the night of 20-21 February 2024, Israeli forces conducted an operation in Al Mawasi, Khan Younis, Gaza, where a shelter hosting MSF staff and their families was shelled. While details are still emerging, ambulance crews have reached the site, where at least two family members of our colleagues have been killed and six people wounded. Photographer: Mohammed Abed | 21/02/2024 | Khan Younis, Gaza

At the time of the attack, 64 people were sheltering in the house. All parties to the war, including Israeli forces, are regularly informed of the whereabouts and have acknowledged the presence of MSF teams in specific locations. Israeli forces have been informed of the precise location of this MSF shelter in Al-Mawasi. In addition to this, a two-by-three-metre MSF flag was draped on the outside of the building. No evacuation orders were issued by the Israeli forces before the strike. MSF has since contacted Israeli authorities and is seeking further explanation.

Some of our colleagues and their family members who were living in the MSF shelter before the attack in Al-Mawasi had already survived the 8 January strike on another MSF shelter in Rafah, which killed the five-year-old daughter of an MSF staff member. This demonstrates, once again, that Israeli forces are not ensuring the safety of civilians in their military operations and shows a complete disregard for human life and a lack of respect for the medical mission. This makes it almost impossible to sustain medical humanitarian activities in Gaza

MSF teams are supporting our colleagues and their family members who survived yesterday’s attack, as well as the loved ones of those who were killed. Five MSF staff have been killed since the beginning of the war, in addition to numerous family members. 

We reiterate our call for an immediate and sustained ceasefire in Gaza. The violence against civilians must end now.

Photographer: Mohammed Abed | 21/02/2024 | Khan Younis, Gaza
Photographer: Mohammed Abed | 21/02/2024 | Khan Younis, Gaza

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Hannah Maitre
Hannah Maitre Communications and Media Intern, Doctors Without Borders (MSF) Southern Africa

About Doctors Without Borders (MSF)

Doctors Without Borders (MSF) is a global network of principled medical and other professionals who specialise in medical humanitarian work, driven by our common humanity and guided by medical ethics. We strive to bring emergency medical care to people caught in conflicts, crises, and disasters in more than 70 countries worldwide.

In South Africa, the organisation is recognised as one of the pioneers of providing Antiretroviral Treatment (ART) in the public sector and started the first HIV programmes in South Africa in 1999. Until today, the focus of MSF’s interventions in the country has primarily been on developing new testing and treatment strategies for HIV/AIDS and TB in Eshowe (Kwa-Zulu Natal) and Khayelitsha (Western Cape).

In Tshwane, we run a migration project, and we offer medical and psychosocial care to migrants, refugees, and asylum seekers, who struggle to access public health services under South Africa’s increasingly restrictive.

Previously we offered free, high-quality, confidential medical care to survivors of SGBV in Rustenburg.

To learn more about our work in South Africa, please visit this page on our website (www.msf.org.za). To support MSF’s work:

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