Durban - Local Muslims have joined a national campaign to raise funds to help the Palestinians of Gaza by providing essential food and medical supplies to the victims of the Israeli offensive. There is also talk of South African doctors entering Gaza as part of a medical mission to assist the struggling hospitals.
Gaza sympathisers say the bombardment, which the Israelis say is aimed at the destruction of militant group Hamas’s capability to fire rockets into Israel, is mostly harming innocent civilians. There is particular outrage that the attacks are occurring during Ramadaan.
Over 100 Palestinians have been killed and about 800 have been wounded in the offensive. There have been no Israeli deaths.
The Islamic Medical Association of South Africa (Imasa) this week condemned what they described as the “barbaric attack on the innocent population of Gaza” and outlined the need for adequate medical equipment and supplies in Gazan hospitals.
Dr Riaz Ismail of Imasa said it would be launching a fundraising drive to purchase food, clothing, medicine and other supplies.
“Gaza’s health facilities have been strangled over the past few years since the last invasion during 2009 with blockage of all access points and an embargo on essential supplies and equipment including fuel and electricity. With the recent dramatic influx of casualties, Gaza’s health facilities and its personnel are struggling to continue its services. They urgently require medicines, surgical supplies and disposables, saline and other fluids.
“The displaced population require clothing, blankets, shelter, food, drinking water, sanitation and other humanitarian aids.”
Imasa has embarked on its relief operation by purchasing these essential items with the assistance of a local partner, PIMA (Palestinian International Medical Aid).
Ismail said Imasa would try to co-ordinate a medical mission with its various provincial branches to assist medical facilities in Gaza.
Solly Suleman of the KZN Islamic Medical Association said his branch has begun fund-raising for Gaza. He said the medical association had earlier this year tried to send a delegation to Gaza but were forced to abandon its plans.
Suleman said the organisation would primarily assist the Palestinians through local fund-raising.
“This is tragedy, innocent children are being killed and the international community is standing by and watching. This is happening at the worst possible time now, the month of Ramadaan.”
Yacoob Vahed, local co-ordinator for the Al Imdaad Foundation, said that the situation in Gaza was dire.
Al Imdaad has been working in Gaza since 2003 and established a females-only hospital. The organisation runs programmes for orphans and widows and is involved in food hamper distribution.
Vahed said that at the request of the ministry of health in Gaza, and due to the current state of emergency, the hospital has been opened to all. He said the organisation has been regularly transferring publicly collected funds to Gaza to sustain its operations.
“We have sufficient medical personnel there but we don’t know how long supplies will last, and there is a problem replenishing because sometimes the border is open and sometimes it isn’t,” said Vahed.
He said the organisation would not consider sending a team of local doctors to Gaza at this stage as there was no guarantee that the border with Egypt would be open.
“Innocent lives are being lost in Ramadaan and the world is focused on soccer. This is really a sad situation,” he said.
Dr Imtiaz Sooliman of Gift of the Givers said it had a team on the ground providing medical supplies. “The provision of relevant medical supplies during this difficult period will be the main focus of Gift of the Givers. In the meantime we have been providing food parcels to poor families this Ramadaan and are also involved in the construction of a five-storey Women and Child Care Centre in Gaza presently which is at a very advanced stage in spite of border closures and a shortage of building material,” Sooliman said.
Meanwhile the South African Muslim Network has supported calls for a boycott of Israel products.