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MSF letter to UNSC

UN Security Council asked to act, stop Israeli attacks

  • Médecins Sans Frontières urges immediate and sustained truce
  • One out of every 200 Gazans killed in last 58 days
  • Hospitals have turned into morgues
Update : 04 Dec 2023, 04:37 PM

In a fervent appeal to the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has sought the UN organ’s intervention in ensuring an immediate and sustained ceasefire in Gaza and halt Israel’s deadly attacks.

MSF International President Christos Christou’s open letter on Monday also urged the UNSC to do everything at its disposal to help allow crucial humanitarian aid to enter Gaza.    

Founded in 1971 in Paris by a group of journalists and doctors, MSF, also known as Doctors Without Borders, is today a worldwide movement of nearly 68,000 people. MSF provides medical assistance to people affected by conflict, epidemics, disasters or excluded from healthcare. MSF lost four of its staffers–killed in Gaza–while many others have lost family members in the past few weeks.  

The UNSC is one of the six main organs of the United Nations, established by the UN Charter. The UN Charter gives primary responsibility for maintaining international peace and security to the UNSC, which has the mandate to meet whenever peace is threatened.

In the letter, MSF International President Christou wrote: “I am writing to you on behalf of Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) to implore you to do everything within your power to ensure an immediate and sustained ceasefire in the Gaza Strip.

“You [UNSC] must demand that the Israeli government stop the deadly attacks on Palestinian civilians and allow crucial humanitarian aid to enter Gaza.”

MSF’s open letter to the UNSC comes at a time when Israel has renewed its attacks, killing hundreds of Palestinians in Gaza right after the expiry of a seven-day truce.

The truce, after weeks of relentless violence, was a welcome respite for the people of Gaza. However, these seven days were not nearly enough to organize the delivery of sufficient aid and essential supplies to meet the immeasurable needs. 

“We are very worried that the truce has ended, bringing a return to death and destruction,” the letter reads.

Hospitals turned into morgues

MSF said it was distressed and shocked by Hamas’s attack on Israeli civilians. “But now, after 58 days, words fail us to describe the absolute horror being inflicted on Palestinian civilians by Israel as it carries out incessant and indiscriminate warfare in Gaza for all the world to see.

“Israel has shown a blatant and total disregard for the protection of Gaza’s medical facilities. We are watching as hospitals are turned into morgues and ruins. These supposedly protected facilities are being bombed, are being shot at by tanks and guns, encircled and raided, killing patients and medical staff.” 

File image: Smoke rises as displaced Palestinians take shelter at Al Shifa hospital, amid the ongoing conflict between Hamas and Israel, in Gaza City, November 8, 2023. Photo: Reuters

The World Health Organization (WHO) has documented 181 attacks on healthcare infrastructure that have led to 22 fatalities and 59 injuries of health workers on duty. Medical staff, including MSF employees, are utterly exhausted and in despair. They have had to amputate limbs from children suffering from severe burns without anaesthesia or sterilized surgical tools.

“Due to forcible evacuations by Israeli soldiers, some doctors have had to leave patients behind after facing the unimaginable choice between their lives or those of their patients. There is no justification for the atrocious attacks on healthcare.”

MSF recently sent an international emergency team to Gaza to support its Palestinian colleagues in providing medical and surgical capacities. “Regrettably, their activities have been severely limited due to the scale of casualties, destruction of infrastructure, lack of essential supplies such as fuel and the ongoing insecurity. We want and ought to be able to do so much more.” 

The letter further notes: “Today it is impossible for us to adequately respond to medical needs in Gaza due to the siege and the unrelenting, generalized warfare being unleashed by Israel.”

World’s largest open-air prison

MSF said Gaza, under an Israel-imposed blockade since 2007, was indeed the world’s largest open-air prison. 

From the start of its military campaign on October 7, the Israeli government has enforced a “complete siege” on Gaza, banning the entry of water, food, fuel and medicinal supplies for the 2.3 million people trapped in the enclave.

“Added to this, unyielding restrictions have been put on humanitarian access and are preventing much-needed aid from reaching anyone who needs it. Subjecting an entire population to collective punishment is a war crime under international humanitarian law.”

The MSF letter notes: “We are witnessing the fundamental principle of humanity being openly disgraced. Despite Israel’s claims, its all-out assault is not being waged just on Hamas. It is being waged on all of Gaza and its people at any cost. Even wars have rules, but Israel is clearly trading them in for its own military doctrine based on disproportionality.” 

Civilians and rescuers look for survivors amid the rubble of a destroyed building following an Israeli bombardment in Khan Yunis on November 12, 2023. Photo: AFP

In the early days of this unbearable offensive, the spokesman for the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) had announced that the “emphasis” of this flagrantly excessive reprisal was to be on “damage and not accuracy,” MSF said, adding that it was safe to say Israel’s actions had spoken louder than its words.

Northern Gaza being erased from map

MSF said Northern Gaza was being erased from the map while its health system had collapsed. More than 15,000 people have been killed, half of whom are children, according to Gaza’s health authorities. 

That is one out of every 200 people in Gaza. 

Tens of thousands of people have been injured. Families are digging their dead loved ones out from under the rubble. 

At least 1.7 million people have been displaced, according to the United Nations. These civilians have been forcibly ordered to move south, but Israel is also bombing that area. Nowhere is safe.

MSF said a sustained ceasefire was the only way to stop the killing of thousands of more civilians and allow for the scaled-up delivery of desperately needed humanitarian aid. 

It called for the establishment of an independent mechanism to oversee the adequate flow of humanitarian supplies into Gaza. “Furthermore, we call for the implementation of secure and long-lasting medical evacuation routes to third countries for people suffering from severe injuries.” 

Demanding a halt to assaults on hospitals and medical staff, MSF appealed to the UNSC: “We call on you to be part of the solution and exert all means in your power to prevent further carnage.”

People react as Palestinians search for casualties at the site of an Israeli strike on a residential building in Gaza City, October 25, 2023. Photo: Reuters

“Our medical teams in the West Bank also report attacks on healthcare with a surge in violence, persecution and harassment, in which over 220 Palestinians have been killed since October 7, either by the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) or by Israeli settlers, according to the United Nations.”

MSF said: “Thus far, world leaders, including permanent members of the Security Council, have been complicit, either by providing Israel with diplomatic cover, by supplying Israel with seemingly unconditional military assistance or by failing to help stem the relentless bloodshed and atrocities being committed in Gaza.”

“It is time to choose whether the council will continue issuing half-hearted calls for the respect of international law and the protection of civilians, or will fulfil its international peace and security mandate and exercise its full diplomatic leverage to convince the State of Israel that the death sentence it has handed the people of Gaza is inhumane, indefensible and cannot continue to be carried out.”

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