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Ghassan Abu Sitta: British-Palestinian surgeon 'prevented' from entering France

Doctor who volunteered in Gaza last year says he was banned entry at French airport due 'Schengen-wide ban' issued by Germany
Dr Ghassan Abu Sitta is a world renowned surgeon who spent the first few weeks of Israel's assault on Gaza in the besieged enclave working in Gaza's hospitals (MEE)

Prominent British-Palestinian surgeon Ghassan Abu Sitta said he was denied entry into France on Saturday where he was scheduled to address the senate about Israel's attacks against Gaza's healthcare system. 

The International Centre of Justice for Palestinians (ICJP), which works with Abu Sitta, said French authorities at the Charles De Gaulle airport informed the doctor that Germany "enforced a Schengen-wide ban on his entry into Europe". 

Abu Sitta, who volunteered in Gaza last year and witnessed Israel's deadly bombing campaign, decried the ban as an attempt to silence him. 

"Fortress Europe silencing the witnesses to the genocide while Israel kills them in prison," he said on X, referring to Adnan al-Bursh, a Palestinian surgeon who was killed by torture while in Israeli detention according to the Palestinian Prisoners' Society. 

"Colonial genocide is a formative component of European identity. Hence their eagerness to become complicit in silencing the witnesses and arming the war criminals."

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Middle East Eye contacted the French foreign ministry for comment but did not receive a response at the time of publication.

A spokesperson for ICJP told MEE the surgeon confirmed he was refused entry because his name appeared on the Schengen Information System (SIS), a security database critics say is used to target human rights activists.

The SIS allows any member of the Schengen area, a group of 27 EU member states, to ban people from entering any country within the bloc. 

Tayyab Ali, director of the ICJP, said Abu Sitta was detained by French authorities and had his phone taken away while he was speaking to him.

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"German politicians have repeatedly claimed that Israel's security is Germany's 'reason of state'. They are behaving as such: to shield Israel from criticism, they are denying the rights to speech and movement of a renowned doctor, who experienced first-hand Israel's attacks on Gaza's healthcare system," Ali said in a statement. 

"ICJP are instructing lawyers in France and Germany to see that the Germans' authoritarian crackdown on free speech and witness testimony won't stand."

The reported French ban comes less then a month after Abu Sitta was barred from entering Germany to speak at a medical conference and deported back to the UK.

Since leaving Gaza in late November, the doctor has been raising awareness about the impact of Israel's war, which has killed more than 34,500 Palestinians.

In the initial weeks after Israel began its assault, Abu Sitta was the unofficial English-language representative of Palestinian doctors and surgeons treating Palestinians wounded by Israeli attacks.

He accused the Israeli military of using white phosphorus, which is illegal in built-up and populated areas like Gaza, and deliberately targeting children.

In an interview with MEE, after he left Gaza, Abu Sitta said medics were using household items to treat patients because of an Israeli-imposed blockade on medical equipment entering the enclave.

"Eventually, everything was running out. Initially, we replaced the antiseptic solution with washing-up liquid and vinegar," Abu Sitta said. 

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