News & Commentary

‘Systematic obliteration’: Doctors Without Borders provides a devastating Gaza update

At the UN Security Council on Thursday, Christopher Lockyear, secretary general of Doctors Without Borders—also known as Médecins Sans Frontières, or MSF—provided a devastating update on Israel’s assault on Gaza, including the humanitarian catastrophe that they’ve induced.

He began by describing a horrific attack on one of their staff shelters this week:

He said that such atrocities have become “all too familiar” as part of “the systematic obliteration” of Gaza’s health system.

“Israeli forces have attacked our convoys, detained our staff, bulldozed our vehicles; hospitals have been bombed and raided, and now—for a second time—one of our staff shelters has been hit…”

“This situation is the culmination of a war Israel is waging on the entire population of the Gaza Strip. A war of collective punishment; a war without rules; a war at all costs…”

“Our colleagues in Gaza are fearful that as I speak to you today, they will be punished tomorrow...”

“The humanitarian response in Gaza today is an illusion,” says Lockyear, “a convenient illusion that perpetuates a narrative that this war is being waged in line with international laws.”

“There is no health system to speak of left in Gaza. Israel’s military has dismantled hospital after hospital…”

“The excuse given is that medical facilities have been used for military purposes. Yet we have seen no independently verified evidence of this…”

“How can we deliver life-saving aid in an environment where the distinction between civilians and combatants is disregarded?…”

Lockyear described how they’ve been “forced to evacuate 9 different health facilities” in Gaza, most recently Nasser hospital, which Israel raided last week.

“Medical staff were forced to leave despite repeated assurances that they could stay and continue caring for patients…”

“Our patients have catastrophic injuries… medics cannot treat these injuries on a battlefield or in the ashes of destroyed hospitals…”

“Surgeons have had no choice but to carry out amputations without anesthesia on children…”

They’re having to reuse bloody gauze on multiple patients, he says, and pregnant women are going months without medical care before giving birth in “plastic tents and public buildings.”

Regarding Israel’s raid on the Nasser Medical Complex mentioned by Lockyear in the clip above, CNN reported a few days ago:

[An] eyewitness spoke to CNN in a rare telephone interview from the area of Nasser hospital, where there are few ways to communicate with the outside world.

The source said when the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) took control of the hospital last week, they broadcast a message saying: “Doctors, come outside.”

When the medics came out and were ordered to take off their clothes, they protested because of the frigid conditions.

“Take off your clothing,” the witness said the doctors were told.

The doctors then removed their clothes in the cold and were kept outside for several hours before Israeli troops chose five doctors to return to the complex to take care of patients. The eyewitness does not know what happened to the other doctors.

That left five doctors to treat dozens of patients in the old building of the compound, said the eyewitness, who has been inside the hospital and asked not to be named for fear of retribution.

Lockyear says that medical teams in Gaza have added a new acronym to their vocabulary: “WCNSF — Wounded Child, No Surviving Family”

He says the psychological trauma inflicted by Israel has “led children as young as five to tell us that they would prefer to die.”

He ended his remarks by demanding immediate action from the UN Security Council, who he rebuked for their “political complicity.”

We have watched members of this Council deliberate and delay while civilians die…”

“We are appalled by the willingness of the United States to use its powers as a permanent Council member to obstruct efforts to adopt the most evident of resolutions: one demanding an immediate and sustained ceasefire…”

“The protection of civilians, of civilian infrastructure, of health workers and health facilities, falls first and foremost on the parties to the conflict. But it is also a collective responsibility; a responsibility which rests with this Council and its members as parties to the Geneva Conventions…”

“Today our staff are back at work risking their lives once again for their patients. What are you willing to risk?”

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