Israeli snipers shot Muhammad Eleiwa while he was protesting along the Gaza boundary fence east of Gaza City on 9 November 2018.
His right leg had to be amputated as a result.
“I couldn’t run after my injury or go about my life like before,” Eleiwa said. “I stopped working after my injury.”
But Eleiwa, 19, from the al-Shujaiyeh neighborhood in Gaza City, was determined to continue playing soccer.
In the two years since the weekly Great March of Return protests began, Israel has exacted a horrifying toll on unarmed Palestinian protesters in Gaza.
Israeli snipers have killed more than 200 Palestinian civilians, including more than 40 children, during demonstrations. Some 8,000 have been injured by live ammunition, with thousands more suffering other injuries.
According to the World Health Organization, 156 amputations – 30 involving children– have resulted from injuries inflicted during demonstrations between 30 March 2018 and December 2019.
Twenty-four Palestinians have been paralyzed due to spinal cord injuries.
Israeli snipers have said they have no regrets over killing and maiming Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.
Tel Aviv daily Haaretz conducted six interviews with military snipers who were stationed at the Israel-Gaza boundary fence during the Great March of Return protests.
Those snipers, all since discharged from the army, confessed to wanting to kill Palestinian children, and competing for the highest number of hits per day.
The vast majority of injuries by live ammunition were in the lower limbs, according to the World Health Organization.
Israeli snipers confirmed to Haaretz that this was their intention. Sometimes they would compete for the highest number of knees shot on a single day.
“From the point of hits, I have the most,” said Eden, a pseudonym for a sniper in the Golani brigade, an “elite” unit in the Israeli army which is responsible for grave human rights abuses.
“In my battalion they would say: ‘Look, here comes the killer.’ When I came back from the field, they would ask, ‘Well, how many today?’”
Eleiwa is one of thousands injured at the hands of those snipers, but his injury is not the only thing standing in the way.
After 13 years of Israel’s blockade on Gaza, young people like Eleiwa find it increasingly difficult to leave Gaza.
“Travel is hard for those with disabilities,” he says, “If we want to travel we need invitations and financial guarantees.”
Still, he is steadfast in wanting to achieve his goals.
“My dream is to participate in the World Cup, representing the Palestinian team of amputees and achieving our goals and dreams.”
Video by Ruwaida Amer and Sanad Ltefa.