Israel's Rafah operation disrupts medical services, aid groups say

GENEVA (Reuters) - Aid groups said on Monday their medical services in Rafah have been affected by the start of Israel's operation in the southern Gaza city, with some services suspended and medical teams blocked.

Israel carried out airstrikes in Rafah on Monday and told Palestinians to evacuate parts of the city where more than a million people uprooted by the seven-month war have been crowded together, often in filthy conditions that have contributed to the spread of diarrhoea and disease.

U.S.-based medical aid group Project HOPE said in a statement that it had to close its Al Shouka facility which is in the so-called evacuation zone. With most of Gaza's hospitals shut, the centre had been giving basic health services to displaced people, including treatments for diarrhea and malnutrition tests amid famine warnings.

Operating hours were reduced at other sites as staff members scrambled to prepare for evacuations, the group said.

"As more people flee and violence continues here, services like these will be forced to suspend indefinitely – cutting thousands off from lifesaving food, medicine, and other aid," said Moses Kondowe, Project HOPE's Gaza team lead based in Rafah, warning of a spike in malnutrition and illness.

A Project HOPE team of four doctors including two surgeons, an emergency medicine doctor and an anesthesiologist was denied entry at the Rafah crossing, together with their medical supplies and equipment, a spokesperson told Reuters.

Another humanitarian aid group, MedGlobal, said in a statement it had scrapped a medical mission set to enter Gaza via the Rafah crossing on Monday due to security reasons. The World Health Organization has previously voiced concern that an Israeli operation on Rafah would close the Egypt-Gaza crossing which is currently being used to import medical supplies.

(Reporting by Emma Farge; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)