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Jeddah - Yasmine El Tohamy - UK-based surgeon treating patients in Gaza says London police harassed his family
LONDON: A British-Palestinian surgeon based in London who has traveled to Gaza to treat patients at a hospital claimed that his family faced harassment from UK counter-terrorism police.
Prof. Ghassan Abu-Sittah, a plastic and reconstructive surgeon with a practice in central London, traveled to Gaza on Oct. 7, The Guardian reported on Tuesday. He has been working at Dar Al-Shifa hospital, providing round-the-clock care to the wounded.
The surgeon has made several media appearances live from Gaza, shedding light on the plight of injured children and medics trapped amid Israel’s bombardment and siege on the enclave.
He told BBC Newsnight that the officers showed up at his home in London and interrogated his wife on why he had traveled to the Palestinian territory, who paid for his ticket and which charity he was helping.
A spokesperson for the Metropolitan Police told The Guardian: “On 16 October, police officers responding to a report that a man was planning to travel to a war zone attended an address in north London where they spoke with one of the occupants.
“Having identified that the man had left the UK for humanitarian purposes, the officers signposted the occupant to current FCDO advice,” the spokesperson added, referring to the UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office
Abu-Sittah, speaking live from Gaza, told Newsnight: “I think it’s a brutal attempt at harassment and silencing us.”
He added: “It’s now been taken up by (my) lawyers.
“I need to find out why someone thought it would be a good idea for them to show up at my house and ask my wife which part of the hospital I’m in, and why did I go, and who paid for my ticket and which charity do I work for.
“At these times, these difficult times, my family is seeing this bombing unfold knowing I’m in the midst of it. To have them harassed in this way has been just bizarre.”
Abu-Sittah has become an advocate from the frontline of the hospital in Gaza, telling the world about the humanitarian crisis and near-impossible conditions there.
“I remain committed to speaking out on behalf of my patients and on behalf of the wounded here, on behalf of these families that are being destroyed. There are 50 families that are wiped out of the civil register; that means the grandparents, the parents and the grandchildren are all killed.”
He said it was his “duty to bear witness to the carnage being committed against them so it would stop.”
The surgeon has promised to remain in Gaza until there is a ceasefire. “I can’t now turn my back on my patients. I can’t turn my back on my colleagues. I came here knowing that this is a war zone, and you have a moral duty as a doctor towards your patients, and caring for your patients who can’t evacuate and can’t get away,” he told BBC Radio 4’s “Today” program on Monday.
Abu-Sittah first came to Gaza as a medical student during the first intifada in the late 1980s, The Guardian reported. He returned during the second intifada of the early 2000s and attended to the injured during the Israel-Gaza conflicts of 2008-09, 2012 and 2014.
He has worked in various combat zones since graduating from medical school in Glasgow, including Syria, Yemen, Iraq, and Lebanon.
In London, Abu-Sittah has a practice near Harley Street where he treats facial deformities and trauma injuries alongside “signature procedures” including facelifts, lip lifts, chin augmentations and “gummy smile” corrections.
During his tenure as the director of the plastic and reconstructive surgery department at the American University of Beirut’s medical center, he spent 40 percent of his time treating people with war injuries from across the Middle East.
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