AN OXFORD surgeon who performed Britain’s first successful heart transplant has backed the city’s first Palestine festival.

Sir Terence English has travelled to the Gaza Strip 13 times in the past six years to work with doctors and help them deliver medical care to those who live in the territory.

The 82-year-old of Iffley said he believes Palestine Unlocked, which will run from June 4 until June 21, will help raise awareness about the help people in Gaza need to improve their medical care.

Oxford has a strong link with the Middle East territory and a number of doctors from the city have travelled to help provide healthcare there.

Last July, the family of former Oxford Brookes student Hassan Al Hallaq were killed in an Israeli airstrike in Gaza.

Sir Terence was one of many foreign medics who travelled to the Middle East in the aftermath of the summer 2014 conflict to help medics there.

He said: “During peace time the heath service in Gaza functions amazingly well considering the near total blockade and the difficulties they face in terms of getting supplies in.

“Six of us were commissioned by the Department for International Development on a mission to assist health needs immediately after the ceasefire last August.

“The destruction was unimaginable.

“About 1,500 civilians were killed and more than half were women and children.”

Sir Terence performed Britain’s first successful heart transplant while working in Cambridge in 1979 and first visited Gaza to teach trauma courses in 2009.

He worked with charities Ideals and Medical Aid for Palestinians (MAP).

He praised the response of the British public and the Department for International Development to help people in Gaza after the conflict last summer but said much still needed to be done.

Sir Terence said: “Electricity is only available four hours a day so the whole health structure is fragile.

“We are going to try and find out where there is greatest need, for example with water.

“We need better training in intensive care and burns management.”

Sir Terence is one of a number of medics who have backed the festival.

Some of those who have travelled to Gaza will give talks on their experiences throughout the 17 days.

Gaza pharmacist Shayma AlWaihaidi, 26, will also speak about her work in in the territory.

She moved to Oxford in September to study a masters degree in public health at Oxford Brookes.

She said: “We are trying to make the bond stronger between Oxford and Gaza.

“I want people in Gaza to have the same healthcare as people in Oxford because they have the same problems.”