Gift of the Givers doctor arrested on Gaza mercy mission

2009-01-25 00:00

THE Gift of the Givers’ humanitarian aid mission to Gaza hit a snag at the weekend when one of the doctors who was part of the crew was arrested. However, the incident did not discourage the enthusiastic medical team who volunteered to help in the conflict-torn Gaza strip.

Imtiaz Sooliman, founder of Gift of the Givers Foundation, a Pietermaritzburg-based organisation, said the doctor was arrested at the Gaza border on Friday.

The reason for the arrest is not known. Sooliman said the doctor was supposed to return to South Africa on Saturday.

“We don’t know why he was arrested. They stopped him in Cairo, but later allowed him through. When we reached the border, he was arrested, but the rest of the crew went through without a problem.”

Twenty-five South African doctors are part of the mission. Israeli authorities have been tightly guarding the Gaza border, limiting the amount of aid entering the territory.

The cargo plane, a Boeing 747, that is carrying medical equipment and supplies, blankets, food, water and water purification tablets, landed in Cairo on Friday.

The medical supplies were cleared on Saturday morning and were expected to arrive in Gaza yesterday.

On arrival in Gaza the medical team were to be split according to their specialties. “They were deployed in different hospitals to assist in different fields. We have orthopaedic surgeons, physicians, trauma counsellors, anaesthetics nurses and more who are ready to start work.”

Sooliman said the South African crew was welcomed with excitement. “People are saying, ‘The people of Mandela have come’, they are really grateful.

“Our medical team is enthusiastic about the mission.”

sandilez@witness.co.za

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