MSF calls for the Israeli forces to stop firing on civilians in Gaza and to cease the massive destruction of homes

MSF calls for a halt to the firing on civilians and for a stop to the widespread demolition of homes. MSF also demands unrestricted access to the people of Rafah for all emergency services. Paris - Since mid-May, the Israeli army has deliberately destroyed several hundred civilian homes and made thousands homeless in Rafah in the Gaza Strip. By Friday May 14, some 20 houses had already been razed to the ground. By the end of the weekend, that had increased to 100. More than 200 families - 1,400 individuals - found themselves homeless and had to seek refuge in schools, mosques and the Rafah sports stadium . These attacks on houses by the Israeli army have resulted in dozens of civilian deaths and injuries. The inhabitants do not have time to flee and those who manage to escape are then shot at. Aid organisations have been urged to intervene because people still in the area fear being buried alive. On Wednesday May 19, while visiting Abu Juseth el Najar Hospital in Rafah, the MSF team counted 60 wounded and 29 dead civilians (mainly children, women and elderly people). They were shot when taking part in a demonstration. People who had gathered to pray were victims as well. "Almost all of them had been shot in the back," complained Dr Nassera Butin, MSF's medical coordinator. Ambulances have also been targeted, restricting their use. Only 20 wounded have been able to be transferred to the two main and better equipped hospitals in Rafah. Yesterday (May 20), the MSF team worked all day at Najar Hospital, where 60 new wounded had been admitted, a number well beyond the hospital's capacity. Two MSF doctors helped with treatment and the triage of the wounded. To ease the strain on the Accident and Emergency ward, the least critical cases were referred to a nearby health centre and even local garages and shops offered by their owners. The health centre has been provided with basic medical materials (anaesthetics, antibiotics, compresses, bandages...). MSF's two psychologists have been working with groups of pupils in schools and have been on the streets meeting people. Yesterday, the water supply was re-connected for only three hours and local people were not able to re-stock their reserves or to get out to find more supplies. The problem of access to drinkable water is extremely serious. MSF calls for a halt to the firing on civilians and for a stop to the widespread demolition of homes. MSF also demands unrestricted access to the people of Rafah for all emergency services. Our teams have experienced enormous problems in reaching the health centres, as well as in getting to the parts of the town which, until yesterday, had been safe refuges and were suddenly also under attack. As there is hardly any coordination among the Israeli military authorities on the ground, our teams - though officially authorised to travel - are having guns pointed at them and their path blocked by tanks. The risks being run by our own volunteers , as well as other humanitarian agencies, are very significant. Even the streets around the hospital are not safe. The tents put up by MSF to take the wounded have been hit by stray bullets. MSF has been working in Rafah for four years providing medical, psychological and social assistance to people who have been traumatised by the constant violence.