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UK surgeon who described Gaza ‘massacre’ denied entry to France

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A London surgeon who has provided testimony over the current war in Gaza after operating during the conflict has been denied entry to France, where he was due to speak in the French senate later on Saturday.

After arriving at Charles de Gaulle airport north of Paris on Saturday morning on a flight from London, Prof Ghassan Abu-Sitta, a plastic and reconstructive surgeon, was informed by French authorities that Germany had enforced a Schengen-wide ban on his entry to Europe.

French police said the German authorities, who had previously refused Abu-Sitta entry to Germany in April, had put a visa ban on him for a year, meaning he was banned from entering any Schengen country. It is not clear whether Abu-Sitta was aware of this before flying to Paris.

“They are preventing me from entering France. I am supposed to speak at the French senate today,” said Abu-Sitta, who had been invited by Green party parliamentarians to take part in a conference at the Sénat, the upper house, to speak about Gaza. The theme of the conference was: France and its responsibility in the application of international law in Gaza.

“In an act of utter vindictiveness the French authorities are denying me access to an earlier flight and insisting on sending me on the last flight back late night to London,” Abu-Sitta wrote on X.

The Elysée said it was not aware of Abu-Sitta’s being refused entry to France but a spokesperson told Le Monde: “When it’s a question of a Schengen refuse, the border police can’t do much about it.”

During the months of October and November 2023 at the beginning of Israel’s war on Gaza that has since killed more than 34,000 Palestinians, Abu-Sitta operated from Gaza’s al-Shifa and al-Ahli Baptist hospitals. During his 43 days, he described witnessing a “massacre unfold” in Gaza and the use of white phosphorus munitions, which Israel has denied. He has also provided evidence to Scotland Yard.

Raymonde Poncet Monge, the Europe Écologie-Les Verts senator who organised the conference, said she condemned the police action and said they had contacted the office of the interior minister, Gérald Darmanin, in an attempt to allow Abu-Sitta entry without success.

“How can Germany issue territorial bans throughout the Schengen area? It’s mind-boggling! This is a new step in the repression of everything to do with Palestine,” said Poncet Monge, who later posted a photograph of Abu-Sitta attending the conference via video.

“We are outraged that he cannot be present among us,” she said.

The International Centre of Justice for Palestinians (ICJP), an independent organisation of lawyers, politicians and academics who support the rights of Palestinians, called his detention an “unacceptable harassment of a globally respected medical professional”.

In January, the ICJP handed evidence to Scotland Yard in relation to alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Gaza under applicable UK legislation, including evidence from Abu-Sitta.

A statement by the organisation said: “By design, the Germans are silencing a key witness to Israel’s war crimes. This follows their action taken on 12 April to bar Dr Abu-Sitta’s entry to Berlin to participate in the Palestine Congress – an event which German police later disbanded.”

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Israel denies it has committed war crimes in Gaza and says it is acting in self-defence after Hamas’s 7 October attack.

The ICJP director, Tayab Ali, called the incident “outrageous” and “unacceptable” as Abu-Sitta had his phone taken from him by airport authorities while they were on the phone.

“We have instructed lawyers in Germany to bring this to the attention of the German courts,” he said.

Ali, who is also a partner at Bindmans law firm, said lawyers were with Abu-Sitta and the French had delayed his departure until 10pm.

The UK Foreign Office has been approached for comment.

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