Gaza: Patients and medical staff trapped in hospitals under fire


Over the past 24 hours, hospitals in Gaza have been under relentless bombardment. Al-Shifa hospital complex, the biggest health facility where MSF staff are still working, has been hit several times, including the maternity and outpatient departments, resulting in multiple deaths and injuries. The hostilities around the hospital have not stopped. Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) teams and hundreds of patients are still inside Al-Shifa hospital. MSF urgently reiterates its calls to stop the attacks against hospitals, for an immediate ceasefire and for the protection of medical facilities, medical staff and patients.

“We are being killed here, please do something” texted one of MSF nurse from Al-Shifa hospital basement this morning, where he and his family were sheltering from the incessant bombing. ​​“four or five families are sheltering now in the basement, the shelling is so close, my kids are crying and screaming in fear.”

“The situation in al-Shifa is truly catastrophic. We call on the Israeli Government to cease this unrelenting assault on Gaza’s health system. Our staff and patients are inside Al-Shifa hospital where the heavy bombing has not stopped since yesterday”

Ann Taylor, MSF’s Head of Mission in Palestine

Al-Shifa hospital is the principal hospital complex in Gaza Strip, with 700 beds, providing emergency and surgical care. There are currently no other facilities in the Strip able to admit and treat as many patients with complex, sometimes life-threatening injuries. Despite regular attacks and shortages, the staff has managed to keep the hospital operational. Yesterday, Al-Shifa hospital lost electrical power. The ambulances can no longer move to collect the injured, and non-stop bombardment prevents patients and staff from evacuating. At the time of writing, our staff are witnessing people being shot at as they attempt to flee the hospital.

“There are a lot of patients already operated on and they cannot walk. They cannot evacuate. We need an ambulance to move them, and we don’t have ambulances to evacuate all of these patients. We cannot leave. We cannot leave because from [yesterday] morning until now, we operated on about 25 patients. If I am not here or the other surgeon, who will take care of the patients? There is a patient who needs surgery, another one is already sleeping [under anesthesia].”

Dr. Mohammed Obeid, MSF surgeon at Al-Shifa hospital

MSF denounces the death warrant of civilians currently trapped in Al-Shifa hospital signed by the Israeli military. There needs to be an urgent and unconditional ceasefire from all warring parties; humanitarian aid must be supplied to the entirety of the Gaza Strip now.

MSF has lost contact with a surgeon, working and sheltering in Al-Quds hospital with his family. Other health facilities, including Al Rantisi hospital which MSF has also supported in the past, were reportedly surrounded by Israeli tanks.

Ceasefire now

We urge the US, UK, Canada, Member states of the League of Arab States, Member states of the Organisation of the Islamic Cooperation and the European Union who have repeatedly called for the respect of International Humanitarian Law (IHL) to take action to ensure a ceasefire now. The horrors unfolding before our eyes in Gaza clearly show that calls for restraint and adherence to IHL have gone unheeded. Working purposefully to reach a ceasefire is the most effective way to ensure the protection of civilians.

Thousands of people have been wounded since October 7, many of whom are in critical condition and will require complex surgeries and sustained treatment for weeks, if not months. This can only be done with a total ceasefire and the unconditional supply of humanitarian aid including access to food, fuel and water; the survival of people in Gaza depends on this.

About MSF in Palestine

The information about our response, below, is correct as of Nov. 9, 2023.

MSF activities in Gaza are currently very limited. We have extreme difficulties delivering aid and providing healthcare due to the insecurity and the unpredictability of the bombardments. While some of our colleagues decided to move south following the unacceptable evacuation order of north Gaza, some of our other colleagues have remained in northern Gaza and continue to support in lifesaving activities in Al Shifa Hospital as well in Al Nasser hospital in the south. In Al Awda hospital, a team of seven MSF staff is also working in the MSF inpatient department. 

We are also supporting local health authorities with donations from our medical stock. Due to the huge and uninterrupted influx of wounded people since the beginning of the current active conflict, Al Shifa Hospital, the main surgical facility in the Gaza strip, was on the brink of a complete shortage of essential medicines. In response, we recently were finally able to make a large donation of medical stock, including medicines and medical equipment to Al Shifa hospital. 

Our staff are working hard on preparing medical and humanitarian supplies to be sent to Gaza when safe access will be guaranteed and open, and we’ll send in emergency teams if and when we’re able to. 

MSF is committed to supporting the people affected by the Israeli heavy bombardments and indiscriminate attacks on Gaza. We stand in solidarity with healthcare workers and patients in Gaza. We want to be able to access people in need of medical care and offer lifesaving humanitarian services, but to do this we need basic guarantees of safety. 

The West Bank

MSF’s medical and humanitarian activities in the West Bank have been affected by the escalation of violence and the reinforced movement restrictions that have limited people’s access to essential services, including healthcare. To adapt to the situation, MSF medical teams are providing phone consultations for Palestinian residents and displaced people, and referring patients for medical treatment, mental healthcare and social services. MSF mental health teams are also providing psychological first aid, counselling and psychotherapy, mostly remotely. In the West Bank city of Nablus, MSF teams are continuing to provide local people with mental healthcare.

MSF has donated medical supplies, including surgical kits, to Ahli hospital in Hebron, and first aid kits to community focal points in Beit Ummar, Al-Rashaydeh and to the emergency care centre in Um Al-Khair; and provided support including training for staff in Al Mohtaseb Hospital located in Hebron old city. MSF continues to assess the situation in hospitals across the West Bank.