In war-torn Gaza, displaced people forced to evacuate Nasser hospital have nowhere to go

Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) strongly condemns the decision by Israeli Forces to issue an evacuation order to thousands of displaced people sheltering inside Nasser hospital, in Khan Yunis, the largest medical facility in southern Gaza.

On Feb. 13, an Israeli military bulldozer destroyed the north gate of the hospital grounds and ordered displaced people to leave through it. Medical staff and patients were told they may remain in the hospital with a limit of one caretaker per patient. MSF staff are still in the building and continue to treat patients amid near impossible conditions.

Following weeks of heavy fighting near Nasser hospital, 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 Yunis were also unable to reach the hospital for emergency care.

According to information available to MSF teams, in the past days at least five people have been killed and ten others wounded after shots were fired directly at the hospital.

“People have been forced into an impossible situation: stay at Nasser hospital against the Israeli military’s orders and become a potential target or exit the compound into an apocalyptic landscape where bombings and evacuation orders are part of daily life,” said Lisa Macheiner, MSF project coordinator in Gaza. “Hospitals should be considered as safe places and shouldn’t even be evacuated in the first place.”

Most of the displaced people in Nasser hospital have now left and thousands of Gazans once again find themselves with nowhere to go.  People cannot move back to the largely destroyed northern part of Gaza because of checkpoints that impede goods and people from getting there. In the south, Israel has been carrying out airstrikes and announced an extensive ground offensive on the city of Rafah which now hosts 1.5 million people.

“People ask us ‘Where is it safe? Where should we go?’ but there is no answer to that, and it really leads to a feeling of despair. People don’t know what to do anymore. They feel unsafe and terrified about what is going to happen next,” said Macheiner.

Since the war in Gaza began, our medical teams and patients have been forced to evacuate nine different health care facilities in the Gaza Strip, after coming under fire from tanks, artillery, fighter jets, snipers and ground troops, or being subject to an evacuation order. Medical staff and patients have been arrested, abused and killed. Provision of healthcare and scaling up lifesaving assistance is being made impossible by the intensity of Israel’s bombings and shelling, as well as intense fighting.

Warring parties must always respect and allow unhindered access to medical facilities and their surroundings and protect medical staff and patients.

MSF reiterates its call for an immediate ceasefire that will spare the lives of civilians, allow adequate and vital access to food and other basic commodities, and re-establish the healthcare system on which the survival of the people of Gaza depends.