April 30, 2019 / 2:14 PM / 3 months ago

Amid deprivation, Gaza youth skate in search of fun

Palestinian Mohammad Al-Sawalhe, 23, a member of Gaza Skating Team, practices his rollerblading skills in Gaza City March 8, 2019. REUTERS/Mohammed Salem

GAZA (Reuters) - At a Gaza beachfront skatepark, Palestinian youngsters on skateboards and rollerblades zip around curves and jump over concrete obstacles to the delight of onlookers.

Calling themselves the “Gaza skate team”, a group of about 20 youths hold weekly training sessions overseen by two coaches, who watch videos on the internet to improve their skating skills.

Skating equipment is hard to come by in Gaza, where poverty runs deep and Israel and Egypt, citing security concerns, maintain tight restrictions along the border.

“We tour the markets looking for second-hand stuff. We collect it and we make it fit for play,” said Mohammed al-Sawalhe, one of the coaches.

“I try to change their thinking and turn it from thinking about the blockade, borders, and death, to thinking about sport,” he said about the skaters.

Israel and Egypt imposed a blockade on Gaza for security reasons after the Islamist group Hamas took control of the territory in 2007. The World Bank says the blockade reduced the territory, home to 2 million Palestinians, to a state of economic collapse.

Writing by Nidal Almughrabi, Editing by William Maclean

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