Video: Finding friendship and strength through basketball

An Israeli airstrike in the southern city of Khan Younis eight years ago cost Wiam al-Astal her left leg below the knee. She was 9 years old at the time.

More than 2,200 Palestinians – including an average of 11 children per day – were killed and thousands injured during Israel’s 51-day assault on the coastal enclave in the summer of 2014.

Along with Wiam, her father and other family members were injured.

“It all happened in an instant,” Wiam told The Electronic Intifada.

“We were with the neighbors’ girls during the war. I suddenly woke up and found the place filled with smoke,” she added.

“When they informed me that my leg would be amputated, I cried, I was devastated. I felt like my life was over and that I would never be able to live again,” Wiam said.

Now 17, Wiam finds friendship and solace on a girls basketball team for amputees.

“We meet friends with similar needs as we’re all amputees. It’s not the same as playing with people without disabilities,” she said.

It was through the team that she met 16-year-old Mai al-Yazji, who has become one of her closest friends.

Since she was a toddler, Mai had mobility impairment in her right leg, which later led to an amputation.

“I joined this team,” Mai told The Electronic Intifada.

“It made me very happy. We play and have fun together and we devote our energy to this sport. It’s a very collaborative and enjoyable sport.”

The girls are now inseparable.

“From the first time I saw Mai I adored her. She’s one of my best friends,” Wiam said.

“As soon as I met someone like me, a person with an amputation, I found someone like me, I felt less alone,” Wiam said.

“We are very similar. We share the same abilities and feelings. We understand one another because we share similar experiences.”

Video by Ruwaida Amer and Abdel Kareem Hana.