Doctors Without Borders president trapped in besieged West Bank hospital

Jenin has endured almost nightly Israeli raids since the Israel-Gaza war began on October 7

A Palestinian inspects the damage after an Israeli raid on the Jenin refugee camp in the occupied West Bank city. EPA
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The city of Jenin and its adjacent refugee camp in the occupied West Bank faced fierce Israeli army raids overnight, trapping the president of Doctors Without Borders in a hospital. The Palestinian health ministry said two children, aged eight and 15, had died in the raid, Palestinian news agency Wafa reported.

Witnesses reported heavy gunfire and checkpoints being set up around the city, while separately, the Israeli army said it had killed two wanted militants.

Wafa said the raids “resulted in the injury and arrest of a number of citizens” and reported that drones could be heard overhead. "The occupation forces launched a massive arrest campaign in Jenin and its camp," Wafa reported, adding that the city had become a "closed military zone".

About 50 Israeli armoured vehicles raided the city, including bulldozers and hundreds of soldiers, witnesses said. Video footage from the raid showed a convoy of military vehicles and a purported roadside bomb, a flash of light accompanied by a loud blast, but it was unclear what had caused the explosion.

In the Jenin refugee camp, set up in 1953 and now a permanent part of Jenin city, the Sina Hospital where Doctors Without Borders were working, was besieged.

“For two hours, we were not able to leave to provide care and people could not reach us, as Israeli military vehicles blocked the entrance of the hospital and the road, preventing ambulances from leaving,” said Christos Christou, the international president of Doctors Without Borders, on X, formerly Twitter.

Mr Christou said two wounded Palestinians who were unable to reach the hospital died from their injuries.

“There’s nothing worse for a doctor to know that there are people there needing our care and they cannot get it,” said Mr Christou, who is a trained surgeon.

This is not the first time health facilities have been in the firing line in the recent conflict. On Saturday, witnesses in Jenin said the Israeli army had surrounded its public hospital and the Ibn Sina clinic, and that soldiers were searching ambulances. Two weeks ago, staff at the Ibn Sina clinic were asked to leave the building by Israeli soldiers outside, who shouted to them through a loudhailer.

"Hospitals are not targets and must remain safe spaces. Medical care must not be impeded. We call on the Israeli military to stop firing on hospitals and to stop their military vehicles from blocking ambulances and medical staff from reaching healthcare facilities," Doctors Without Borders said in a statement on November 9.

The raids are reminiscent of similar, large-scale incursions into the Jenin camp in June and July when several dozen people in the town were killed in heavy fighting that led to one Israeli army vehicle being destroyed. Israel used helicopters to support soldiers in the raids, a rare occurrence in their occupation of the West Bank.

Since the latest Gaza war, similar raids and drone strikes have become an almost weekly occurrence. On November 9, a raid in Jenin killed about 14 people.

Jenin was also the scene of heavy fighting in 2002 during the intifada, or uprising against the Israeli occupation, when at least 50 people were killed in the town and about 140 buildings there were completely destroyed in fighting, according to rights groups.

Since the Israel-Gaza war on October 7, violence has soared in the occupied West Bank, with about 200 Palestinians killed.

Updated: November 29, 2023, 2:15 PM