Gaza: MSF calls for the protection and safe evacuation of patients from Nasser hospital

Doctors Without Borders (MSF) is outraged that medical staff and patients are still trapped after Israeli forces attacked and raided Nasser hospital in Khan Younis, Gaza, on 15 February.

Some 130 patients and at least 15 healthcare workers are still in the hospital with no electricity or running water and limited food, according to the United Nations, who say they have managed to transfer 32 patients in critical condition and are trying to evacuate the rest in the coming days. MSF is deeply concerned for the well-being of these patients and calls for their safe evacuation. Our teams at al-Aqsa hospital and Rafah Indonesian Field hospital are prepared to treat them if need be.

In the early hours of 15 February, a shell struck the orthopedic department of the facility causing chaos and killing and wounding an undetermined number of people. Fearing for their lives, MSF staff members had to flee the compound leaving behind several patients in severe condition. We have very little information about the remaining medical staff and patients and their condition.

This comes following weeks of heavy fighting near the hospital, where medical staff, patients and displaced people found themselves trapped inside the compound with very little access to essential supplies. Many people who were wounded by the intense bombing in Khan Younis were also unable to reach the hospital for emergency care.

Four days after the attack, MSF has still not heard from two of our staff members who were in the hospital at the time of the attack. One who has been unaccounted for since the attack and another who was detained at a checkpoint by Israeli forces while trying to leave Nasser hospital. We ask Israeli authorities to share information about their whereabouts and we call for their safety and protection of his dignity.

“The situation in Nasser hospital is yet another example of the way healthcare facilities are being dismantled one by one in this war. Even though they were initially told they could stay inside the facility, medical staff and patients were put in danger in a place where they should have been protected. We are outraged that once again they have had to pay a heavy price,” says Guillemette Thomas, MSF medical coordinator for Palestine.

On 13 February, Israeli forces ordered the evacuation of the thousands of displaced people sheltering in Nasser hospital and told medical staff and patients they could remain in the building with one caretaker per patient. Many civilians were afraid to leave the hospital because shots had been directly fired at the building and at people trying to leave the hospital’s compound.

Once the largest healthcare facility in southern Gaza, Nasser hospital no longer has the capacity to treat patients. What is left of Gaza’s health system is barely functioning due to its main hospitals being constantly affected by military operations and heavy fighting in their immediate vicinity. Tens of thousands of people have not only been injured but maimed for life and there is currently no possibility for proper treatment or continuation of care.

Attacks on medical facilities, their staff and patients must stop. MSF reiterates its urgent call for an immediate and sustained ceasefire to allow spare civilians’ lives and for substantial aid to enter the enclave.

Jane Rabothata Communications Specialist, MSF

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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