Reuters report from Gaza.
A soccer team made up of Palestinians who lost limbs to Israeli fire in the Gaza Strip is giving its players new purpose. Members of the amputee team, which is made up of players most of who lost their legs in the conflict with Israel, exercise on a soccer pitch in the central Gaza Strip. Players aged between 13 and 42 play eight-a-side intra-squad games. Most have only one leg and play on crutches.
“I was sitting home most of the time, sad. Now I am happy, have friends and we play,” said Ibrahim Khattab, 13, who lost his left leg during the 2014 war between Israel and Gaza militants when an Israeli missile struck while he was playing soccer outside his home.
Fouad Abu Ghalyoun, a member of the Palestinian paralympic committee, founded the team, having come up with the idea after a match last year between amputee squads from England and Turkey. Within five months, some 16 players had signed up.
The team’s coach, Khaled Al-Mabhouh, said the squad was still lacking sturdier crutches to replace regular ones that tend to break when a player puts weight on them during a match.
Some of the 54 Palestinians who had limbs amputated after being wounded by Israeli fire during recent protests along the Gaza-Israel border have expressed interest in joining the team.
Protesters are demanding a right of return to what is now Israel for those who fled or were forced to flee their homes in the war around its creation in 1948, and for millions of their descendants. Israel rules that out as demographic suicide.
Israel’s tactics in confronting the protests have drawn international condemnation. But support has come from its main ally, the United States, which like Israel has accused Gaza’s dominant Hamas Islamist group of instigating violence and attempting to breach the border to carry out attacks.