Yet another hospital in Gaza forced to close amid the intensified Israeli offensive in Rafah

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Doctors Without Borders / Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF)

The intensification of the onslaught by the Israeli forces in Rafah, Gaza, has forced Doctors Without Borders / Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) to stop providing lifesaving care at Rafah Indonesian Field hospital on 12 May. The 22 patients who remained in the hospital have been referred to other facilities, as we can no longer guarantee their safety. Doctors Without Borders has seen a pattern of systematic attacks against medical facilities and civilian infrastructure since the beginning of the war. In light of this, as well as the advancing offensive, we have made the decision to leave Rafah Indonesian Field hospital.

“We have had to leave 12 different health structures and have endured 26 violent incidents, which include airstrikes damaging hospitals, tanks being fired at agreed deconflicted shelters, ground offensives into medical centres, and convoys fired upon,” says Michel-Olivier Lacharité, Doctors Without Borders Head of Emergency operations.

explosions in the distance in Rafah

The health system is being dismantled resulting in devastating consequences for people trapped in Gaza. According to OCHA, 24 out of the 36 hospitals in Gaza are now out of service. Doctors Without Borders is trying to establish field hospitals elsewhere in the Gaza Strip, but these few structures will not be able to cope with a massive influx of wounded civilians, on top of overwhelming medical needs. They can in no way replace a functional health system.

Prior to evacuating the hospital, Doctors Without Borders had been offering post-operative care for war-wounded patients since mid-December 2023. Our teams worked on providing care to people in the 60-bed hospital, where surgeons undertook approximately 35 procedures per week in the operating theatre. Inpatient and outpatient care ran six days a week, with about 130 consultations a day, with teams providing dressing changes, physiotherapy, and counselling. The Ministry of Health has also been forced to move its activities from Rafah Indonesian Field hospital, resulting in the closure of the entire hospital.

Displaced Palestinians in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip carry their belongings as they leave following an evacuation order by the Israeli army on May 6, 2024.

Alongside this closure, prolonged blockages of aid are further crippling the humanitarian response and endangering the lives of people trapped in Gaza. Supplies of fuel, needed to run everything from hospitals to bakeries, and other necessities, are running dangerously low while people cannot leave or enter the enclave.

Doctors Without Borders has reopened our activities at Nasser hospital in Khan Younis with outpatient and inpatient departments focusing on orthopaedic surgery, care for burns, and occupational therapy services; maternity services will open in the coming days. Doctors Without Borders staff were forced to flee Nasser hospital in mid-February and leave patients behind after a shell struck the orthopaedic department and Israeli forces ordered the evacuation of the facility before raiding it.

As the people in Gaza again face another onslaught of bombing, missiles, shooting and violence, we again call for an immediate stop to this offensive, which is displacing hundreds of thousands of people and depriving them of essential aid. At least 360,000 Palestinians have fled Rafah, according to the United Nations, since Israeli forces have expanded their offensive and evacuation orders, which make it impossible to provide lifesaving humanitarian and medical assistance amid this campaign of indiscriminate death and destruction.

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