UK-Palestinian surgeon fights for ‘justice’ after Gaza return

UK-Palestinian surgeon fights for ‘justice’ after Gaza return
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Ghassan Abu Sitta, a British-Palestinian plastic surgeon specializing in conflict injuries, poses for pictures in Victoria Park, east London, on January 7, 2024. (AFP)
UK-Palestinian surgeon fights for ‘justice’ after Gaza return
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Doctor Ghassan Abu Sitta (R) and other doctors treat a patient suffering from severe burns at the Al-Shifa hospital in Gaza City on August 3, 2014. (AFP)
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Updated 08 January 2024
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UK-Palestinian surgeon fights for ‘justice’ after Gaza return

UK-Palestinian surgeon fights for ‘justice’ after Gaza return
  • Dr. Ghassan Abu Sitta, who spent 43 days volunteering in Gaza, has testified to the UK's biggest police force about the injuries he saw and the kinds of weapons used
  • His testimony will be used as part of evidence being gathered for an ICC probe into alleged war crimes committed by both sides

LONDON: A British-Palestinian doctor who worked in Gazan hospitals during the Israel-Hamas conflict hopes that testimony he has given to UK police will lead to prosecutions for war crimes.

Ghassan Abu Sitta, a plastic surgeon specializing in conflict injuries, spent 43 days volunteering in the besieged Palestinian territory, mostly at the al-Ahli and Shifa hospitals in the north.

The 54-year-old has already testified to the Met, the UK’s biggest police force, about the injuries he saw and the kinds of weapons used, as part of evidence being gathered for an International Criminal Court probe into alleged war crimes committed by both sides.

He is due to travel to The Hague this week to meet ICC investigators.

Abu Sitta said the intensity of the war was the greatest of the numerous conflicts he has worked in, including others in Gaza, Iraq, Syria, Yemen and south Lebanon.

“It’s the difference between a flood and a tsunami — the whole scale is completely different,” he told AFP during an interview in London on Sunday.

“Just the sheer number of the wounded, the size of the calamity, the number of children killed, the intensity of the bombing, the fact that within days of the war starting Gaza’s health system was completely overwhelmed.”

The war in Gaza was triggered by an unprecedented attack on Israel by Hamas on October 7, which resulted in the deaths of around 1,140 people, most of them civilians, according to an AFP tally based on official Israeli figures.

In response, Israel is carrying out a relentless bombardment and ground invasion that have killed at least 22,835 people, most of them women and children, according to the Hamas-run Gaza health ministry.

Abu Sitta — born in Kuwait and who has lived in Britain since the late 1980s — arrived in Gaza from Egypt on October 9 as part of a Doctors Without Borders medical team.

“From the very beginning our capacity was less than the number of wounded we were having to treat. Increasingly we were having to make very difficult decisions about who to treat,” he recalled.

Abu Sitta remembers one 40-year-old man coming into hospital with shrapnel in his head. He needed a CT scan, and to see a neurosurgeon, but they did not have one.

“We told his children and they stayed around his trolley that night until he passed away in the morning,” he said.

The hospitals also quickly ran out of anesthetic and analgesic drugs, meaning the surgeon had to perform “really painful cleaning procedures of wounds” without relief.

“It was a choice between doing that or watching them succumb to the wound infections and dying from sepsis,” he added.

‘Voice on the outside’ 

Abu Sitta is adamant that he treated burn wounds caused by white phosphorus. Its use as a chemical weapon is prohibited under international law, but it is allowed for illuminating battlefields and as a smokescreen.

“It has a very distinctive injury,” he said.

“The phosphorus continues to burn until the very deepest part of the body, until you reach bone.”

Abu Sitta said he left Gaza after becoming “redundant” because a lack of medical supplies meant he could no longer perform surgery.

He has spent much of his time back in Britain briefing politicians and humanitarian organisations on the urgent need for aid.

“I’ve been trying to help my patients who I left behind as much as I can by almost being their voice on the outside.”

The Met says it is obliged to gather evidence for an ICC probe into alleged war crimes committed by both sides.

Abu Sitta says he told officers about what he witnessed, including the use of white phosphorus and attacks on civilians.

He also described surviving the October 17 attack on the al-Ahli hospital, which Hamas blames on Israel, but Western countries say was caused by a misfired Palestinian rocket.

“Eventually justice will catch up with these individuals, if not in five years, 10 years, when they’re 80 years old, whenever the balance of power in the world allows for justice for Palestinians,” Abu Sitta said.


Millions of Indians beat extreme heat to cast votes

Millions of Indians beat extreme heat to cast votes
Updated 23 sec ago
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Millions of Indians beat extreme heat to cast votes

Millions of Indians beat extreme heat to cast votes
  • 111 million people vote in election’s penultimate phase
  • Temperature in New Delhi soared to more than 44 degrees Celsius

NEW DELHI: Voters in Delhi braved a sweltering heatwave on Saturday as they queued at polling stations in the penultimate phase of India’s general election.
The voting, which more than 968 million people have been eligible to do, started on April 19. Some of India’s 28 states and eight federally governed territories completed the process in a single day, while others have spread it out.
The sixth phase of the poll covered the capital, Delhi, as well as the neighboring states of Haryana and Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand, Odisha, West Bengal and Bihar in the country’s east, and Jammu and Kashmir.
In Delhi, voters queued to cast their ballots despite the temperature soaring to over 44 degrees Celsius — with humidity making it feel like 56 C, according to reports — prompting the Election Commission to deploy paramedics to some polling stations.
While there have been concerns over voter turnout — with the first phase estimated to have seen at least 4 percent fewer people take part than in 2019’s election — those who arrived to cast their votes said there was no way the heat could deter them.
“Voting is the only way we can convey our feelings toward governance. It is a decisive way. To spend one hour in the line after five years is not a big deal for us,” said Karan Sharma, who was voting in the East Delhi constituency.
“We were complaining about the heat, but ... it’s a duty, it’s like eating food. After every five years, the festival comes, we have to participate in it.”
For Kavita Wadhwa, who cast her vote in the New Delhi constituency, it was a matter of exercising her rights.
“We have the right to select our own leaders,” she told Arab News. “It’s important for us ... It’s a democratic country.”
The election sees Prime Minister Narendra Modi chasing a third straight five-year term in power, targeting 400 of the 543 parliamentary seats for the National Democratic Alliance led by his Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, which has been in power since 2014.
He is challenged by an alliance of two dozen opposition parties — the Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance (INDIA), led by the Congress Party, which ruled the country for close to 45 years following its independence in 1947.
Modi’s key contender is Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, the son of Rajiv Gandhi, a grandson of Indira Gandhi, and a great-grandson of Jawaharlal Nehru — all of whom were prime ministers of India.
Gandhi also cast his vote in Delhi on Saturday, after which he took to social media to encourage others to follow suit.
“Your vote will not only improve your life but will also protect democracy and the Constitution,” he said on X. “Come out of your homes in large numbers and vote for your rights and the future of your family.”
Around 111 million people were eligible to vote in the sixth phase of the election. Some of them, like Arohi Anand, were voting for the first time.
“I think it’s a great right ... The government is for us — if we don’t vote, it is on us,” he told Arab News. “(The heat) is a secondary thing. The most important thing is our vote, because the government is the most important thing; it will shape our future.”
The party or coalition that wins at least 272 of the 543 contested seats in the lower house of parliament will form the government.
The first five phases of the election have already decided the fate of 429 representatives. Saturday’s vote will add another 58.
The seventh and final phase of the election will be held on June 1. Vote counting will take place on June 4.


Russian strike on Kharkiv hardware store kills two: official

Russian strike on Kharkiv hardware store kills two: official
Updated 19 min 56 sec ago
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Russian strike on Kharkiv hardware store kills two: official

Russian strike on Kharkiv hardware store kills two: official
  • Kharkiv regional governor Oleg Synegubov said that “two Russian guided bombs hit a construction hypermarket“
  • Videos posted by witnesses on social media showed a huge column of black smoke billowing into the sky from the Epitsentr store

KYIV: A Russian strike on Saturday hit a store selling building materials in the eastern Ukrainian city of Kharkiv, killing at least two people, its mayor said.
“We know for sure about two dead,” Kharkiv mayor Igor Terekhov wrote on Telegram, saying that according to preliminary information the strike hit a hypermarket for construction materials in a residential area.
Kharkiv regional governor Oleg Synegubov said that “two Russian guided bombs hit a construction hypermarket” and “a fire broke out over 15,000 square meters.”
Videos posted by witnesses on social media showed a huge column of black smoke billowing into the sky from the Epitsentr store, located in an area of large stores beside a car park. The chain of hypermarkets sells household and DIY goods.
“We have a large number of people missing. There are many wounded,” Terekhov wrote on Telegram.
“Apparently, the attack was on a shopping center where there were many people — this is pure terrorism.”
The city of Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second largest, regularly comes under attack from Russian missiles.
Strikes on the city killed at least seven people on Thursday, local authorities said.
Russia launched a ground offensive in the northeastern Kharkiv region on May 10, but Ukraine said Friday that it had managed to halt its progress.


British man charged after allegedly joining Syrian terror group

British man charged after allegedly joining Syrian terror group
Updated 25 min 20 sec ago
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British man charged after allegedly joining Syrian terror group

British man charged after allegedly joining Syrian terror group

LONDON: A British man who allegedly travelled to Syria to fight for the Jaish Al-Fatah group has been charged with terrorism offences, the Metropolitan Police said on Saturday.

Isa Giga was arrested after arriving in London aboard a flight from Turkey on Thursday.

He was due to appear at Westminster Magistrates’ Court on Saturday. He is suspected of traveling to commit acts of terrorism.

“We have been clear for some time now that should anyone return to the UK whom we suspect of being involved in any terrorist-related activity overseas, then they can expect to be thoroughly investigated,” Commander Dominic Murphy, head of the force’s Counter Terrorism Command told the BBC.

“We work very closely with other partners and agencies here in the UK and overseas in order to do this and help keep the public safe.”


A mob in Pakistan burns down a house and beats a Christian over alleged desecration of Qur’an

A mob in Pakistan burns down a house and beats a Christian over alleged desecration of Qur’an
Updated 25 May 2024
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A mob in Pakistan burns down a house and beats a Christian over alleged desecration of Qur’an

A mob in Pakistan burns down a house and beats a Christian over alleged desecration of Qur’an
  • The incident occurred Saturday in the Mujahid Colony residential area in Sargodha
  • Police quickly responded and saved the lives of the two men

LAHORE: Hundreds of Muslims in eastern Pakistan went on a rampage over allegations that a Christian man had desecrated the pages of Islam’s holy book, ransacking and burning his house and beating him before police officers rescued the man and his father, officials said.
The incident occurred Saturday in the Mujahid Colony residential area in Sargodha, a city in Punjab province, said district police chief Ijaz Malhi. He said police quickly responded and saved the lives of the two men.
Malhi said the situation was under control and officers were investigating the allegations.
The incident brought back memories of one of the worst attacks on Christians in Pakistan in August 2023, when angry mobs burned churches and attacked dozens in Jaranwala, a district in Punjab province. Muslim residents claimed they saw a Christian and his friend tearing out pages from a Qur’an and throwing them on the ground. No one was killed. In 2009, six Christians were killed and some 60 homes burned down in the district of Gojra in Punjab following allegations of insults to Islam.
Malhi said police on Saturday dispersed the crowds and were also seeking help from religious scholars to defuse tensions. The Punjab government condemned the attack.
The man’s small shoemaking factory was also burned down, Malhi said.
Blasphemy accusations are common in Pakistan.
Under the country’s blasphemy laws, anyone found guilty of insulting Islam or Islamic religious figures can be sentenced to death. While no one has been executed for blasphemy, often just an accusation can cause riots and incite mobs to violence, lynching and killings.


More than 10,000 people reach UK on small boats since January

More than 10,000 people reach UK on small boats since January
Updated 25 May 2024
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More than 10,000 people reach UK on small boats since January

More than 10,000 people reach UK on small boats since January
  • The latest numbers on a government website showed 10,170 arrived between January and May 25
  • The plan has been bogged down by legal obstacles for more than two years

LONDON: More than 10,000 asylum seekers have arrived in Britain in small boats so far this year, updated government data showed on Saturday, underlining a key challenge facing Prime Minister Rishi Sunak ahead of a July 4 national election.
The number of people landing on England’s southern beaches after making the dangerous Channel crossing fell by a third in 2023, but the latest numbers on a government website showed 10,170 arrived between January and May 25, up from 7,395 over the same period last year.
Sunak, who announced the election date on Wednesday, said later this week that asylum seekers who come to Britain illegally would not be deported to Rwanda before the vote — casting doubt on one of his Conservative Party’s flagship policies.
The plan has been bogged down by legal obstacles for more than two years, and the opposition Labour Party, which is about 20 points ahead in opinion polls and seen on track to end 14 years of Conservative rule, has promised to scrap the policy if it wins the election.
Labour’s shadow immigration minister Stephen Kinnock said Sunak’s government had not done enough to tackle the issue.
“Because all the government’s efforts are now focused on getting a few hundred people flown to Rwanda, they have lost sight of the thousands more who are crossing the Channel every month,” Kinnock said in a statement.
Labour has said if elected it would create a Border Security Command that would bring together staff from the police, the domestic intelligence agency and prosecutors to work with international agencies to stop people smuggling.