Medicines sans Frontieres, popularly known as Doctors Without Borders have been on the ground in Gaza, attempting to treat casualties from the war. Today, the organization released a statement condemning the attack on Al Shifa Hospital and described how civilians in Gaza have nowhere safe to go. The full statement is below as are other reports by the UNHWR, NBC News and Haaretz in Israel. These reports provide an accurate description of the horrific situation for people, particularly children, in Gaza.
MSF strongly condemns attack on Al Shifa hospital
Yesterday’s attack on Al Shifa hospital, where nearly 2,000 people are sheltering, demonstrates how civilians have nowhere safe to go and shows the current difficulties of providing emergency aid in Gaza.
29 July 2014
24th of July of 2014. Israeli military offensive "Protective Edge". Families displaced by the bombings took refuge in the Al-Shifa hospital compound, in Gaza City, where MSF is working.
Gaza/Jerusalem/Paris, 29 July 2014 – The international medical organisation Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) strongly condemns the 28 July attack on Gaza City’s Al Shifa hospital, where an MSF surgical team is working. Al Shifa is the main referral hospital for the entire Gaza Strip. This latest bombing of a health facility, where thousands of people have taken refuge since Israel launched its Operation Protective Edge three weeks ago, demonstrates how civilians in Gaza have nowhere safe to go, and shows the difficulties of providing emergency aid in Gaza.
Fourth hospital to have been attacked
One MSF international staff member was in the building when the outpatient department of Al Shifa hospital was bombed. While no one was injured in this latest attack, it is the fourth hospital in Gaza to have been hit since 8 July, the others being the European General hospital, Al Aqsa hospital and Beit Hanoun hospital.
“Targeting hospitals and their surroundings is completely unacceptable and a serious violation of International Humanitarian Law,” says Tommaso Fabbri, MSF’s head of mission in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. “Whatever the circumstances, health facilities and medical staff must be protected and respected. But in Gaza today, hospitals are not the safe havens they should be.”
No freedom of movement
One hour after Al Shifa hospital was attacked, a rocket strike hit Shati refugee camp. The injured – most of them children – were brought to Al Shifa. “Two thirds of the injuries I've seen arriving at Al Shifa have been children,” says Michele Beck, MSF’s medical advisor in Gaza.
In the Gaza strip, 1.8 million people, including more than 160,000 displaced people, live in a narrow, densely populated strip of land. “Gazans are hemmed in by the sea and closed borders,” says Marie-Noëlle Rodrigue, MSF’s director of operations. “When the Israeli army orders civilians to evacuate their houses and their neighbourhoods, where is there for them to go? Gazans have no freedom of movement and cannot take refuge outside Gaza. They are effectively trapped.” (emphasis mine)
Working is extremely dangerous
For medical and humanitarian organisations in Gaza, such as MSF, working and moving around is extremely difficult and dangerous. In the past three weeks, local ambulances and Red Crescent paramedics have been killed and wounded. On 20 July, there was an airstrike just a few hundred metres from a clearly identified MSF car. On the same day, a missile fell – but failed to explode – some 10 metres from an MSF tent set up in the compound of Nasser hospital, in southern Gaza.
In the past three weeks, MSF teams have only been able to reach Nasser hospital on two occasions. MSF has been forced to suspend its surgical activities in the hospital, despite the significant medical needs in this severely hit area, where most of the wounded are women and children.
Surgical team ready
“We have a surgical team ready to work in Nasser hospital, but without firm and credible security guarantees from both parties to the conflict, we cannot risk sending them,” says Nicolas Palarus, MSF’s project coordinator in Gaza.
For aid organisations, getting staff and medical supplies into Gaza is proving extremely difficult. The Rafah crossing, from Egypt, and the Erez and Kerem Shalom crossings, from Israel, are partially open, but there is a risk of bombings and collateral damage. “The population is being held hostage, with almost nothing and nobody going in or out,” says Marie-Noëlle Rodrigue.
Difficult to reach hospitals
Because of intense shelling, the sick and wounded are also finding it difficult to reach hospitals. Half of Gaza’s health centres are not functioning. In Gaza City, home to some 800,000 people, just four out of 15 health centres are open.
“Beyond the emergency, basic medical needs such as maternal healthcare and the management of chronic diseases, as well as access to drinking water and food, are simply not being provided,” says Nicolas Palarus.
Information from other sources confirms the desperate situation imposed on Gaza by the IDF and Bibi Netanyahu
NBC News interview with Israeli Pilot demonstrates that IDF has the Infrared technology to distinguish between adults and children. Pilot cannot answer why so many children in Gaza are killed if IDF calls off strikes when technology shows children are present.
Two days ago, the UNWRAissued a report that children make up 30% of the casualties in Gaza.
On 7 July UNRWA declared an emergency in all five areas of the Gaza Strip in response to escalating violence between Israel and Hamas. 27 July marked the twentieth day since the emergency was declared. Since then, civilian displacement and fatalities have risen sharply. …UNWRA shelters where people in Gaza are taking shelter are not equipped to deal with the overcrowding.
The number of displaced people taking refuge in UNRWA shelters is now more than triple the peak number from the 2008/9 conflict and is approaching 10% of the entire population of Gaza, with approximately 170,461 in 82 schools. UNRWA has launched an emergency flash appeal for US$ 115 million to respond to the urgent and pressing humanitarian needs of the people of Gaza.
Past 24 hours [July 27-28]: This period marked the end of the holy month of Ramadan and the start of the Eid el Fitr holiday. Ramadan this year was a particularly difficult time for people in Gaza. Tragically, over 1,000 Palestinians were killed, with the figure reported by the Protection Cluster today standing at 1,067. According to preliminary data from the protection cluster, 137 Palestinians were reported during this period as killed, which includes those whose bodies were retrieved and identified during the past 24- hour period. This figure includes 6 women and 13 children. OCHA, using protection cluster data, reports that children make up 30 percent of civilian casualties.
An average of 2,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) are taking refuge in each of the 82 UNRWA shelters, schools which normally have the capacity to accommodate only 500 people, and have not been designed as living spaces. Shelters are therefore under great pressure, without adequate water sanitation and hygiene (WASH) infrastructure in place and without sufficient space. In order to maintain standards of health and hygiene in such overcrowded conditions UNRWA is sending additional supplies of cleaning products to shelters as well as putting in place plans to prevent health issues such as scabies and head lice.…
When hostilities cease, many people will have no homes to return to
If hostilities cease on a longer term basis, IDPs taking refuge in UNRWA shelters will be returning to their homes. Many will find that their homes have been totally destroyed or have sustained major damage. Many IDPs fled their homes with nothing and have lost everything in the subsequent destruction of a number of neighborhoods.
Missiles (includes rockets, mortars, Navy shells and tank shells)
Fired into Israel:105 Fired into Gaza 605
Finally Haaretz, (Israeli Newspaper) offers "Operation Protective Shield by the Numbers". I encourage everyone to read the entire article. Here are a few of the numbers:
65,026 Reservists Drafted
495 Rockets Intercepted
96 Rockets Fall in Open Areas
35 Airlines Cancel flights to Ben Gurion Airport
3540 Buildings Destroyed
120 Schools Damaged
150,000 people uprooted
1.2 million people affected by damage to water, electricity and sewage systems
6 hospitals damaged
Deaths Since Operation Protective Shield Began
IMO the disproportionate deaths among a people effectively trapped with no safe refuge, whose access to shelter, food, water, power, and sanitation has been destroyed, where hospitals, doctors and ambulances are targeted by an occupying power who has the technology to distinguish between adults and children but apparently refuses to do so, raises the question: When does war become genocide?