Gaza runner Bahaa al-Farra treads carefully, braving the elements and potholed roads ravaged by years of conflict between Palestinians and the Israeli army, as he prepares to race at the London Olympics.
The 19-year-old trains for three hours a day in Gaza’s Yarmouk soccer stadium, along the dusty streets and on the beach in well worn trainers that were donated to the Palestine Olympic Committee by wealthy Gulf state, Qatar.
Palestinian athletes complain of a paucity of financial support at home and a lack of vital equipment and coaches that are crucial for success and to nurture talented youth, but by competing in London, a national dream will be realised.
The Gaza Strip is a narrow coastal enclave in the eastern Mediterranean that borders on Israel and Egypt and which Palestinians want as part of a future state along with the Israeli-occupied West Bank and Arab East Jerusalem.
In 2007, Islamist Hamas ousted Western-backed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas from the strip in a brief and bloody civil war that split Palestinian society, but the two factions are currently trying to implement a signed reconciliation pact.
Abbas, who leads the more secular Fatah faction, holds sway in the West Bank.
Israel deems the Gaza Strip hostile territory and along with Egypt strictly controls access to it, limiting imports. Israel bans most travel through its crossings because Hamas and other militants who call for the Jewish state’s demise have launched attacks at Israeli towns from the territory.