‘Earth Doctors’ return from volunteer mission to Gaza

‘Earth Doctors’ return from volunteer mission to Gaza

Last month the Association of Earth Doctors provided medical care to Palestinians in the Gaza Strip who were unable to leave due to an Israeli blockade of the area.

June 19, 2008, Thursday/ 21:07:00/ TODAY'S ZAMAN WITH WIRES
A number of Turkish doctors from a private association have returned from a trip that began last month to the Gaza Strip, where they had provided medical care to those unable to leave due to the Israeli blockade of the area.
Dr. Kerem Kınık, the coordinator of the Association of Earth Doctors, spoke to the Anatolia news agency, saying that they had been kept waiting for more than five hours at the Erez crossing on the northern Gaza-Israel border by Israeli soldiers while trying to get into Gaza. Kınık noted that directly after entering Gaza they headed straight to area hospitals, where many patients were desperately awaiting treatment because of the lack of specialists.

“Palestinians formed long queues to be examined by Turkish doctors,” he said, adding that the doctors from the association performed consecutive surgical operations late into the night during their stay.

Kınık stated that İsmail Haniye, the prime minister of the de facto Hamas government, greeted the Earth Doctors team in his office and that he conveyed his salutations and thanks to the Turkish people. Noting that they were briefed by Haniye on the latest situation in Palestine and that they informed him of their voluntary work, Kınık said they also met with Palestinian Health Minister Besim Naim Muhammad.

In addition to Hamas officials, the directors of health institutions located in Gaza thanked Turkey for the continuous aid it provided and presented the Turkish group with various gifts and plaques to be conveyed to Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on behalf of the Turkish nation.

A member of the group, dentist Süleyman Gündüz, also a former Justice and Development Party (AK Party) Sakarya deputy, recounted that they were greeted by the Gazans in an outpouring of excitement for their voluntary work. Emphasizing his great happiness to have been a member of the group, Gündüz noted that the Palestinian people live under extremely difficult conditions because of the Israeli occupation of the town. “There are thousands of patients whose transfer paperwork has been completed for receiving treatment abroad, yet they have been unable to leave the country for a year because of the siege,” he said.

The neurosurgeon of the team, Dr. Saffet Tüzgen, said they had successfully operated on many disabled patients who had sustained injuries to their heads and spines during Israeli attacks. “Many seemingly hopeless patients have shown remarkable recovery after the operations while some have completely recuperated,” Tüzgen said, adding that a bedridden patient who could not use his legs for 17 days because of a shrapnel wound to his spine started walking again after a six-hour operation.

Orthopedist Dr. Halil Rıfat Çanakçı noted that he had joined the team from the southeastern Turkish district of Cizre.

“It is greatly uplifting to be standing by the Palestinian nation during their insufferable plight,” he said, while Dr. Saim Berçin, a general surgeon, noted that the Earth Doctors would continue helping Palestine.

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