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Gaza: Volunteer doctor talks about ‘tsunami’ of pain and war crimes

Accustomed to war and returning from Gaza, a British-Palestinian doctor described to AFP on Sunday a deadly conflict of unprecedented intensity, hoping his testimony to British police will lead to prosecution for war crimes.

Ghassan Abu Sitta, a 54-year-old plastic surgeon who specializes in war injuries, spent 43 days as a volunteer in the Palestinian territory, mainly at Al Ahli and Al Chifa hospitals in the northern Gaza Strip.

He says the intensity of the conflict exceeds that of others he has already worked in, in the Gaza Strip, Iraq, Syria, Yemen and southern Lebanon: “It’s the difference between a flood and a tsunami, the scale is completely different. – he explains. It is distinguished by “the number of wounded,” “the number of children killed, the intensity of the bombing, the fact that in the first days after the start of the war, the health care system in the Gaza Strip was completely flooded,” he emphasizes. .

“Choose who to treat”

Ghassan Abu Sitta was born in Kuwait and has lived in the United Kingdom since the late 1980s. He arrived in Gaza from Egypt on October 9 as part of a team from Doctors Without Borders. “From the very beginning, the capacity was lower than the number of wounded we had to treat. We increasingly had to make very difficult decisions about who to treat,” he recalls.

He mentions a case in which a 40-year-old man arrived at the hospital with a shrapnel in his head. He needed a CT scan and a neurosurgeon, but they didn’t have one. “We told his children about it and they stayed near his stretcher that night until he died in the morning,” he said.

Burns caused by white phosphorus

The doctor says he was treating burns caused by white phosphorus, the use of which is prohibited as a chemical weapon by international law, but which is still legal for illuminating battlefields or creating a smoke screen. Lebanon has accused Israel of using white phosphorus in the conflict. “This is a very typical injury,” explains the doctor. “Phosphorus continues to burn to the deepest parts of the body until it reaches the bones. »

Dr. Abu Sitta explains that he left Gaza because the lack of medical equipment prevented him from performing operations. He told London police about the injuries he saw, the type of weapon used, the use of white phosphorus and “attacks on civilians”. Scotland Yard stresses that it is obliged to collect evidence of possible war crimes on both sides for international justice.

“Eventually,” the doctor believes, “justice will find these people, if not in five years, then in 10 years, when they turn 80, when the balance of power in the world makes justice possible for the Palestinians.”

Source: Le Parisien

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