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  • Palestinian cyclist and amputee Alaa Al-Dali, 21, stands next to his bicycle at his house in Rafah.

    Palestinian cyclist and amputee Alaa Al-Dali, 21, stands next to his bicycle at his house in Rafah. | Photo: Reuters

Published 3 May 2018

The Israeli occupation forces may have forcibly taken these young athletes' limbs, but their dreams remain intact.

A group of young Palestinians in Gaza has founded 'The Crutches': the first soccer team for amputees injured during the last three Israeli aggressions.

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During the first weekly protests at the Gaza-Israel border, which began last March, at least 17 Palestinians lost their legs after being shot by the Israeli military, who deliberately aimed at demonstrators' lower limbs and knees.

Even though some of the wounds could have been treated, the poor state of available medical care in Gaza did not allow for the limbs to be saved.

"The deployment of snipers, careful planning and significant number of injuries to the lower limbs does reflect an apparent policy to target limbs," Omar Shakir, the Israel-Palestine director of Human Rights Watch in New York, told the Chicago Tribune.

But these young men from Gaza are not giving up. Losing limbs to Israeli gunfire hasn't prevented them from fulfilling their dreams, and now they serve as an example of perseverance and resistance.

"We're not a team of disabled or special needs people. We can prove ourselves and practice all the sports we love," said Naji Ajin, one of the first players to join the team in the Gaza Strip.

It was coach Fuad Abu Ghalioun, a member of the Olympic Committee, who came up with the idea for the team. Ghalioun's mother is also an amputee, which fanned his interest in sports for people with disabilities.

The coach began his search for a team and contacted the athletes personally, looking for logistical support. He eventually found the Deir Al-Balah Rehabilitation Association and 13 people willing to join the team.

The goalkeeper is Abdul Majid Mughari, who lost his right hand but not his love for sports. "We broke the occupation's momentum when we put our injuries behind us and focused on our talents," Mughari told Palestinian news outlet Ma'an.

"Amputee players have proved that they can play soccer with one leg and do gymnastics with one hand. The disability doesn't prevent us from going on with our lives."

Both Ghalioun and the team captain, Mohammed Abu Sherif, hope they can represent a Palestine of determined and hopeful people, escaping any association with weakness.


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