Young Gaza amputees play soccer again after coronavirus curbs eased

Amputees rest during a soccer training session in Gaza. (Reuters)
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Updated 08 July 2020

Young Gaza amputees play soccer again after coronavirus curbs eased

GAZA: Young Palestinian soccer players, all amputees and many on crutches were back on the field in Gaza on Tuesday for the first time since coronavirus restrictions were eased in the territory.
Their coach said some of the 26 athletes lost limbs to Israeli fire in Gaza, where Hamas, the ruling militant group, and Israel have fought three wars since 2008.
“We are now back on the field. We are training and keen to play in the league,” said Mai Al-Yazji, 14, referring to an amputee teams’ tournament for boys and girls under the age of 16.
Its borders tightly controlled by Israel and Egypt, Gaza has reported 72 coronavirus infections and one death from the respiratory disease. The Mediterranean coastal enclave has around 2 million inhabitants, many of them impoverished.
Gaza health authorities recently allowed sports clubs, gyms, mosques, restaurants and event halls to resume operations.
About 80 adult amputees compete in their own soccer league. Many of them were injured in the conflict with Israel, according to the Palestine Amputee Football Association in Gaza.
“It felt great to play football for the first time,” said 15-year-old Weam Al-Astal, who said she lost a leg when an Israeli missile landed next to her house in 2014. “I am now loving sport more and I dream to become a famous player.” The association sponsors the league in partnership with the International Committee of the Red Cross, and the ICRC also provides uniforms and crutches.
“We are very happy we are restarting the amputee football activity, training and competitions,” said Ignacio Casares, ICRC office director in Gaza.
“Make no mistake, they are athletes, they have special abilities and they are somehow special as well as persons.”


Lebanese patriarch warns of crisis without a government after Adib steps down

Updated 58 min 43 sec ago

Lebanese patriarch warns of crisis without a government after Adib steps down

  • Al-Rai said Adib’s resignation had ‘disappointed citizens, especially the youth’
  • Frustration at Adib’s failure to form government was voiced by Lebanon’s religious communities

BEIRUT: Lebanon’s top Christian cleric said on Sunday the nation faced “multiple dangers” that would be hard to weather without a government, speaking a day after the prime minister-designate quit following his failed bid to form a cabinet.
Mustapha Adib stepped down on Saturday after hitting a roadblock over how to make appointments in the sectarian system, striking a blow to a French initiative that aimed to haul the nation out of its deepest crisis since its 1975-1990 civil war.
French President Emmanuel Macron, who had pressed Lebanon’s fractious politicians to reach a consensus so that Adib was named on Aug. 31, is to due to speak about the crisis in a news conference in Paris later on Sunday.
Patriarch Bechara Boutros Al-Rai, leader of the Maronite church, Lebanon’s biggest Christian community, said Adib’s resignation had “disappointed citizens, especially the youth, who were betting on the start of change in the political class.”
Many top politicians, both Christian and Muslim, have held sway for years or even decades. Some are former warlords.
Rai said Lebanon now had to navigate “multiple dangers” without a government at the helm.
Rai’s comments were echoed on the streets of Beirut, where mass protests erupted in 2019 as years of mismanagement, corruption and mounting debts finally led to economic collapse, paralysing banks and sending the currency into freefall.
“There needs to be fundamental change. We need new people. We need new blood,” said 24-year-old Hassan Amer, serving coffee from a roadside cafe in the capital, which was hammered by a huge port blast on Aug. 4 that killed almost 200 people.
In nearby streets, walls were still plastered with graffiti from the protests, including the popular call for sweeping out the old guard: “All of them means all of them.”
Frustration at the failure of Adib, a Sunni Muslim, to form a government was voiced by many across Lebanon’s religious communities. Prime ministers under Lebanon’s sectarian power-sharing system must be Sunnis.
A senior Shiite Muslim cleric, Sheikh Ahmed Qabalan, said on Saturday Adib’s resignation as the economy collapsed could “be described as a disaster,” calling for national unity to deliver reforms, the state news agency reported.
The cabinet formation effort stumbled after Lebanon’s two main Shiite groups, Amal and the heavily armed Iran-backed Hezbollah, demanded they name several ministers, including finance, a key role as the nation draws up a rescue plan.
Saad Al-Hariri, a former prime minister and leading Sunni politician, said in a statement he would not be involved in naming any new premier and said the French plan was “the last and only opportunity to halt Lebanon’s collapse.”
A French roadmap laid out a reform program for a new government to help trigger billions of dollars of international aid.