Every time he hears a loud noise, Imed al Firi hides his healthy leg under a cushion — a reflex he developed after the summer of 2014, when Israeli tank fire struck his Gaza home and robbed him of his
Every time he hears a loud noise, Imed al Firi hides his healthy leg under a cushion — a reflex he developed after the summer of 2014, when Israeli tank fire struck his Gaza home and robbed him of his right leg.
He is among thousands of Gazans learning to live with disabilities or missing limbs after three wars between Palestinian militants in the territory and Israel since 2008.
Beyond limited medical care in Gaza, they also face a lack of facilities for the disabled in the Palestinian enclave run by Islamist movement Hamas which has been under an Israeli blockade for nearly a decade.
More than 75,000 Gazans suffer from some form of disability, a third of them linked to conflict in the territory of 1.9 million people, according to the International Committee of the Red Cross.
The 2014 war alone, the deadliest of the three conflicts, wounded 11,000 people.
Firi, 50, often sees Mohannad Aid, 20, at Gaza’s clinic for polio and prosthetic limbs.
Aid and Firi have at least two things in common — both are missing a leg and are unemployed, like nearly half of Gaza’s population. Aid lost his leg from rocket fire while returning home from a mosque in 2014.
He has since become better at managing his prosthetic leg — two metal rods connected by a joint at knee level, with a red-and-black tennis shoe at the bottom.
His physiotherapist Ahmed Abu Shaaban says he has made impressive progress, but everyday life remains a challenge for him in Gaza. “Some streets are not paved and are only dirt, others are potholed and rutted,” said Abu Shaaban. “Construction is chaotic.”
Firi says little is done to ease conditions for the disabled despite Gaza’s legion of war wounded.
He has started an organisation for people in his situation and has organised protests to demand improvements.
When met by AFP, he had a letter in his pocket for the mayor of Gaza City demanding paving of a road. He wants to send another one calling for beach access for the disabled.
“Everyone has the right to go to the beach, but we are not good enough for that ” Firi complained.
Access to medical supplies is another source of frustration.
The only factory to build prosthetic limbs in the Gaza Strip faces limited capacity, factory head Nabil Farah said, as workers surrounding him moulded and carved plastic arms and legs.
“It is hard to bring raw materials into Gaza, especially chemical products needed for production,” he said.
Israel strictly controls goods entering the Gaza Strip to keep out items that could be employed to build weapons or tunnels, which have been used to carry out attacks.
At the same time, Gaza’s border with Egypt remains largely closed.