Medical staff in Gaza are in survival mode, says Doctors Without Borders director



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A group of 28 premature babies arrived in Egypt today they were evacuated from gaza’s largest hospital several other babies died there when incubators were knocked out after a loss of power and a collapse of Medical Services as fighting intensifies around hospitals in gaza’s North Doctors Without Borders says its teams are Under

Fire Joseph Bello is executive director of Doctors Without Borders here in Canada and he joins us now Joseph welcome back to the show thanks for having me David I want to start there if I can on the whole issue of of doctors being under Fire because we do know that a doctor Without

Borders clinic near alifa Hospital came under Fire this morning how many people do you have shelter in there what can you tell us about this incident yeah we have about 20 people Sheltering in that particular facility um and maybe just to back up just to give this a little bit of context um

Because essentially for the last week and a half uh healthc care the health Healthcare Services have basically grounded to a halt in in all of Northern Gaza and our teams msf Doctors Without Borders colleagues other Medics and patients have simply gone into pure survival mode just literally trying to

Dodge bullets stay low uh as as alifa and and and other hospitals have come under direct and sustained uh fire so h on Saturday we negotiated uh with both parties to conflict uh an agreement that we could evacuate a number of people uh 1377 people to be precise uh in a convoy

Five five cars a number of people also walking very clearly marked with the msf logo very clearly visible and we had a had a green light from both parties to to conflict to evacuate this number of people now we had gotten down to uh the very last checkpoint so gotten through a

Few of the checkpoints the very last one um was clogged up and crowded uh so despite having pre- permission to be able to get through that checkpoint we could not that Convoy had to turn back uh and on the way back the Convoy came under Fire one of uh one family member

Of an msf colleague was killed uh in that incident and another critically wounded now those five cars and those people went back to try to find shelter as best that they could uh and some of them went back to the msf clinic that you just referred to now as of as of

Today that clinic has come under this is a Clinic that we were doing outpatient services for burn wounds uh many of them as you can imagine that clinic as of today came under direct uh fire uh and uh and was also burned so it was liter

Literally in in Flames um the five cars that we had used to for these evacuation purposes four of them were burned lit on fire and one of them crushed by some kind of heavy machinery and split in two and just and just crushed so so um as as

You 20 people now uh hold up in or they were hold up in this facility that is now on fire and has come under direct attack so this this situation of repeated violence and brutality and direct attacks on civilians and clearly marked humanitarian vehicles and medical spaces is is absolutely egregious and

Off the charts okay there’s a lot there uh in that answer so you say that it’s under Fire do you know who this is is this Hamas is it Islamic Jihad is it the Israel Defense Forces do you know who is shooting at this uh shelter we we we can’t confirm any

Particular shot fired or any particular in incident we know that uh that there’s intense fighting uh around these uh these medical facilities and we certainly know uh from the pattern uh of of incidents that is have occurred up to now that uh that Israeli drones and um

And airri strikes are are a part of this that Israeli tanks are involved uh I can’t confirm in this particular case who’s firing shots and who’s not firing shots but we’ve certainly seen a repeated pattern here and Joseph when we say Under Fire are we talking gun fire

Are we talking like machine guns pistols or are we talking like RPGs are we talking air strikes Rockets what what what are we talking about there yeah good a good mix uh of of of all those things really um what we’ve heard most of over the last days are a

Sniper fire uh and air strikes uh and and tank tank fire so um and and this again you know goes back to this past week when we’ve had uh staff and patients just in cowed in Corners in inside of hospitals uh trying to protect themselves my colleague described how

Two nurses uh two two medic not msf but but nurses uh were were shot because they be they got too near to to an open space and were shot at uh air strikes um apparently they hit they reported again repit hit people who were trying to evacuate from alifa this is just days

Ago so I think really a combination of the different types of uh of attacks since since we last spoke uh I know we spoke about your concerns about what’s happening at at alifa because of the presence of the IDF there and the concerns about people’s safety we’ve

Seen a series of videos being released by the Israel Defense Forces as proof they say that Hamas was operating out of this hospital and continues to operate in other hospitals does Doctors Without Borders have any response to that I mean how do we Square this with the reassurances that we’ve had from from

Others involved in this that there there was no meaningful Hamas presence or visible Hamas presence in any of these facilities we just we just can’t Square it I can’t say definitively how close where Hamas had its bases exactly where it’s been hiding exactly but certainly what my colleagues have

Repeated ly said over and over that these were these were fully functional comprehensive medical spaces where we were providing surgical care and nutritional care and maternal care and newborn care and and and we’ve never heard my colleagues have never shared anything related to to Hamas being anywhere near inside of these facilities

So I I just can’t Square it we know that these these facilities were used for medical purposes we know that they were deliberately uh uh targeted and systematically deprived of the essentials um water and and supplies necessary uh to to run medical facilities that’s that’s what we

Know so the situation now is uh many of these facilities are not functioning you you say you have your staff they’re sort of pinned down and the cars they were going to use for the evacuation have either been crushed or or set on fire what is your sense I’m assuming

Some communication has been restored because you have some details of what’s going on just what level of healthare is functioning inside ganza right now and the probability or the chances for your people to get to safety as they tried to do yeah and you know it just gets worse

And worse which is unimaginable the only health care if you could call it that at this stage and anywhere in in Northern Gaza is just the heroic efforts of individual Medics uh I think I think last time we spoke David I mentioned a colleague a surgeon of ours who’s taken

Uh three uh children who’ve lost their parents this goes back to that acrm you know wounded child no surviving family WC NSF uh the taking those those children under under his wing uh a couple of other Medics just sort of you know working uh to to to treat wounds

With whatever material materials they can be be with their patients um try to get water to them if if they can but but this is just sort of human to human this is not within a functional health system paliative in a way right it’s offering comfort as best you can without actually

Providing healing right some of some of it is certainly paliative also knowing that uh that that patients have died because of because of the services have been have been cut and many more uh really face that Prospect as well right okay so just as a final question Joseph

Like you said you’re try to get 137 people out I know at least one of them uh what was killed in what happened and that is obviously uh difficult uh for your team but is there any hope or any chance that the rest of them can get out do you have any

Idea I don’t know I I I don’t know at this stage I I don’t even know how now we don’t have vehicles anymore uh we we we we know that even when we’re getting the permissions uh clearly it’s still not safe it’s a so I I I don’t know what

Happens next I mean if you just if you just look at this pattern of repeated attacks on civilians a complete disregard for for non-combatants uh in in in this conflict the the systematic targeting of the health facilities clearly marked the msf vehicles the deprivation of food and of

Water and of like it’s I don’t know I don’t know where it goes from here as you know we’ve called for for a ceasefire that almost sounds tiny compared to what’s happening but certainly we need this immediate ceasefire we need the the the stop to

The bomb so we can just even start to talk about evacuations again and start to talk about how you bring a measure of humanity back into a place where Humanity has just been crushed Joseph I’m very sorry uh for the loss of the family member of one of your team and I

Hope uh your team members are able to get to safety thanks again Joseph Belo for Doctors Without Borders for joining us today thank you David

As fighting intensifies around northern Gaza hospitals, staff have been dodging bullets and working in clinics that are coming under direct and sustained fire, says Joseph Belliveau, executive director of Doctors Without Borders Canada.

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