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MSF calls for access to its patients in the Gaza Strip

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Northern Gaza-Paris - Since September 28 2004, and the onset of the "Operation Days of Penitence" in Gaza, MSF medical teams have not been authorised to access the vast majority of their patients in the southern and centre areas of the strip. Since then, and despite multiple daily requests to the Israeli authorities to allow medical teams to reach people in need, no "coordination" - clearance given by Israeli army - has been given to MSF. To this day Gaza is still cut into three segments, and access to our patients is impossible. Furthermore, MSF staff members, along with the entire population in the zone, are under direct violence.

In Beit Hanoun, an MSF staff member and his family was stuck in their partially destroyed house with children while the army destroyed their car and killed livestock. The family, who was not specifically targeted as an MSF member, was shot at when trying to leave. Despite assurances given to MSF by the relevant authorities that all attacks were to cease immediately, the bombing never stopped.

Authorization to evacuate the family at that time was refused and eventually they fled to a neighboring house, remaining in a dangerous situation. Soldiers then occupied the house. MSF teams were not authorized to evacuate the family until the following day. Authorities were officially notified of the presence of MSF staff members in this area last July.

Since the beginning of this operation, MSF has received numerous calls asking for help to secure food, water and medicines for people blocked in Beit Hanoun, Beit Lahia and Jabalia. In these zones, which remain isolated from the rest of Gaza, all movement has been impossible since September 28. Medical authorities in the area have asked MSF psychologists to provide their medical staff with emergency debriefing.

However, as hospitals are located in the firing zone, our psychologists have not yet been able to work. For the past eight days, MSF teams, who have both the capacity to treat and to provide food supplies for the families they are supporting, are unable to do so, for lack of authorization by the Israeli Defense Forces. Once again, MSF asks for access to its patients in the Gaza Strip.