South African aid group denied entry to Gaza

January 24th, 2009 - 5:31 pm ICT by IANS  

Johannesburg, Jan 24 (IANS) An aid mission consisting of 30 South African medical personnel wanting to provide assistance to the people of Gaza, which was ravaged by Israeli attacks in recent weeks, was stuck at the border after a member of the team was detained by Egyptian authorities.Feroz Ganchi, a specialist in emergency medicine and an employee at the state hospital in Upington in South Africa, was detained Friday.

The team, carrying more than 84 tonnes of relief aid, refused to continue into Gaza without Ganchi, who was facing possible deportation back to South Africa.

Ganchi has previously been repeatedly questioned by authorities while travelling and then released. The doctor and a Muslim student from Pretoria, Zubair Ismail, were in the spotlight in 2004 when they were arrested in Pakistan on suspicion of having terror links to international terrorist organisations, but were subsequently freed without facing any charges.

Imtiaz Sooliman, internationally renowned founder of the Gift of the Givers Foundation that is taking millions of rands of relief aid to Gaza, said the expedition would not cross the border without Ganchi.

Sooliman said from the border that officials wanted permission from their national security agency before letting the team cross the border despite the mission having the full support in writing of the South African government.

“We don’t want to create a diplomatic incident, but we are not going to split the group or leave anyone behind,” Sooliman said.

“The irony is that every hour that the bureaucratic bungling holds us up, prevents our doctors to get to work with the huge patient load in Gaza.

“I hope that the entire mission is not jeopardised. The health authority in Gaza is waiting for us and needs us bitterly,” he added.

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