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  • Inas Nofal with her coach Sami Nateel.

    Inas Nofal with her coach Sami Nateel. | Photo: @runningcase

Though circumstances are tough for professional athletes in the military-occupied Gaza strip, one young runner trains with all her heart.

A 15-year old Palestinian from the Gaza strip, Inas Nofal, is the enclave's first and only female competitive runner.

"Running is my life," Nofal told Al Jazeera. "Before I go to sleep, I think about which routes I'll run the next day."

Her biggest supporter is her father Mahmoud, who often follows Nofal and her coach from his car, ready to jump in if his young daughter faces any harassment from authorities or the community.

"Some people object to girls running and say bad things. It upsets me, but I try to hide it from Inas, because I don't want it to discourage her from her dream," Mahmoud said. He is hopeful his daughter will help change how society views girls and women.

Nofal began running last year, with the support of a local coach, Sami Nateel, who a runner himself previously, now trains Palestinian youth.

Still, living under Israeli occupation means many challenges for the young runner, where  facilities for professional athletes are limited in Gaza. And just last month, her and dozens of other runners from Gaza were denied permits by Israel to visit Bethlehem to take part in the Palestine Marathon.

But Nofal remains hopeful.

“I dream of running outside Gaza, where there are open spaces to run,” she said.

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