Gaza: Medical Personnel Unable to Enter

For Immediate Release

Gaza: Medical Personnel Unable to Enter

Daily Pause in Violence Insufficient; Other Crossing Points Blocked and Civilians Remain Trapped

JERUSALEM/GAZA - Despite statements by Israeli authorities, the worsening security
situation in the Gaza Strip is severely limiting international
humanitarian assistance in support of Palestinian emergency medical
services, which are trying to cope with thousands of wounded patients.
The international medical humanitarian organization Doctors Without
Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) calls on the parties to the
conflict to allow medical personnel to enter and operate safely in the
Gaza Strip to reach trapped civilians.

The shootings and bombings by the Israeli army in the Gaza Strip do
not allow for the arrival or departure of MSF teams, even if
authorizations have been provided by Israeli authorities. The daily
three-hour lull that Israel has announced is not being fully observed.
And since the pause in fighting applies only to Gaza City, there is no
possibility for humanitarian workers to safely use the Erez crossing
point in the north of the Gaza Strip, the only area authorized by
Israeli authorities for movements of staff. MSF has not been granted
permission to use the Kerem Shalom crossing point, which is used for
moving supplies across the border. MSF denounces this blockage and the
non-choice it faces: exposing MSF teams to danger without any possible
alternative.

MSF demands that Israel authorize the entry of its emergency aid
workers through alternative entry points into the Gaza Strip, such as
Kerem Shalom. This is an indispensable condition for providing adequate
assistance to the population of Gaza.

"The people living in the Gaza Strip cannot flee and are trapped by
the violence," said Franck Joncret, MSF head of mission for the
Palestinian Territories. "It is critically important that outside aid
be able to reach them. But as of this date, the risks facing aid
agencies-both international and Palestinian-are too high, preventing
assistance from being carried out. Israel and Hamas must take up their
responsibility to facilitate the work of humanitarian organizations,"
he said.

While hospital emergency departments in Gaza face a shortage of
surgeons, a five-person MSF surgical team has been on stand-by in
Jerusalem for one week. Shifa Hospital in Gaza City has requested and
relied on the support of MSF staff and medical supplies for more than
two weeks.

"We are in regular contact with hospitals in Gaza," said Cécile
Barbou, MSF medical coordinator in the Gaza Strip. "Their emergency
departments and intensive care units are overwhelmed by the inflow of
sick and wounded patients, especially at night. Surgical departments
are working around the clock. Sometimes two operations are performed
simultaneously in the same operating room. Hospital staff are
exhausted."

Since the Israeli military operation began on December 27, it has
been very difficult to provide emergency aid. The MSF clinic in Gaza
City remains open but it is extremely dangerous for people to move
about and few residents are able to reach medical facilities. Part of
MSF's Palestinian medical teams are supplied with emergency kits so
they can treat patients at home in the neighborhoods where team members
live. They have treated more than 270 people in the last two weeks.
Medications and supplies have been distributed from MSF inventories to
address shortages in Gazan health facilities.

In addition, a delivery of 21 tons of MSF emergency medical supplies
is underway. The cargo includes medications (analgesics, anesthetics,
and antibiotics), medical and surgical supplies and logistical
equipment, including a mobile hospital with two operating rooms and a
10-bed intensive care unit.

The parties to the conflict must respect aid workers and guarantee their safe entry into the Gaza Strip.

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