Doctors Without Borders chief Christos Christou
Doctors Without Borders chief Christos Christou says Australia must apply sanctions on Israel. Image by Lukas Coch/AAP PHOTOS
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Doctors’ aid group urges Australia to sanction Israel

Farid Farid May 28, 2024

The head of Doctors Without Borders has slammed the Australian government for supplying arms to Israel and failing to apply sanctions over its seven-month military offensive on Gaza.

“Australia must apply appropriate sanctions on Israel, as it would to any other global state that refuses to comply with UN Security Council resolutions,” Medecins Sans Frontieres president Dr Christos Christou said on Tuesday.

“The Australian government’s expressed support for a ceasefire rings hollow when they are supplying the weapons that continue to kill and maim in Gaza,” he said in a National Press Club address.

His comments come a day after Israeli airstrikes ignited a massive blaze at a tent camp in Gaza, where thousands were sheltering after Israeli forces began their offensive in east Rafah more than two weeks ago.

At least 45 people were killed and more than half of those burned to death were women, children and elderly people.

The death toll is likely to rise among those with severe burns, health officials in Gaza said.

Israeli airstrikes ignited a massive blaze at a tent camp in Gaza.
 Israeli airstrikes ignited a massive blaze at a tent camp in Gaza, killing at least 45 people. Image by EPA PHOTO 

Dr Christou called out “Israel’s indiscriminate and disproportionate military campaign” for over seven months on Gaza for killing over 35,000 people, wounding about 80,000, shattering its health system and displacing its population of over two million people.

“The situation in Gaza has never been so dire. The food, water, and medical supplies so desperately needed are sitting just across the border in Egypt, of use to no one,” he explained.

He said the Australian government should be pressuring Israel to allow unimpeded access to essential humanitarian aid.

“MSF has worked in Gaza for 36 years and this is the first time we’ve seen cases of malnutrition.”

“As part of the international community, Australia should insist on immediate humanitarian access using the roads and entry points that already exist.”

The humanitarian aid group’s head also paid tribute to five of his colleagues who have been killed since October 7.

Hamas attacked Israel on October 7 killing 1200 people and taking more than 200 hostages, according to the Israeli government.

In response, it has launched air strikes and a ground invasion of Gaza edging up on eight months.

Dr Christou also pointed to other conflicts such as the raging civil war in Sudan where his group is stretched to the limits.

He said the humanitarian response was “woefully inadequate” to respond to the needs of seven million internally displaced people and over two million refugees in neighbouring countries.

Dr Christou said the aid organisation was committed to working in Gaza where it is still operating in nine pared-down health facilities but was despondent about the deteriorating situation.

“I wish I could find the words to express the smell of infected wounds. The cries of mothers who’ve lost their children. The constant sound of drones. The level of desperation of my colleagues.

“Frankly, I have run out of words.”