Gaza: MSF strongly condemns Israeli attack on Al-Mawasi shelter

Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (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 Feb. 20, 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.

Ambulance teams were delayed for more than two hours by the shelling in the area but were later able to reach the site and bring the wounded, some sustaining burn injuries, to the International Medical Corps Field hospital in Rafah.

“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.”

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 clearly 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 Jan. 8 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 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.