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Gaza teenager runs for Palestine

May 6, 2016 | Al Jazeera

Inas Nofal aims to win medals for Palestine at international competitions, but training in Gaza presents a challenge.

MAGHAZI, GAZA - Tying the shoelaces of her bright green trainers, Inas Nofal prepares for her daily morning run. As Gaza's first and only competitive female runner, the 15-year-old makes heads turn when she races down the streets.

"Running is my life," Nofal told Al Jazeera. "Before I go to sleep, I think about which routes I'll run the next day."

Nofal started running last year with the support of a local coach, Sami Nateel al-Balad. Nofal's father, Mahmoud, tirelessly follows the two in his car, ready to intervene if his daughter faces harassment from authorities or the community. 

"Some people object to girls running and say bad things. It upsets me, but I try to hide it from Inas, because I don't want it to discourage her from her dream," Mahmoud said, noting he hopes she will help to change how society views girls and women.

Nofal hopes to win medals for Palestine at international competitions, but facilities for professional athletes are limited in Gaza. Three wars with Israel in less than a decade have caused major destruction in the small coastal enclave, leaving limited resources for sports and recreational activities.

Last month, Nofal suffered a further setback when she and dozens of other runners from Gaza were denied permits by Israel to travel to Bethlehem for the Palestine Marathon, which aims to shed light on Israeli-imposed restrictions on movement for Palestinians. 

For the full photo essay see here

Animals suffer in Gaza's cash-strapped zoos

August 24, 2015 | Al Jazeera English

Amid a crippling Israeli blockade of the Palestinian territory, zoos in Gaza cannot properly care for their animals.

RAFAH, GAZA - On a dirt road, behind tall white walls decorated with faded paintings of zebras, giraffes and lions, lies Rafah Zoo.

It is hidden away from Rafah's busy streets, but inside, hundreds of colourful birds in cages tweet loudly - almost drowning out the sound of children playing in a pool nearby.

Opened in the late 1990s by the Jumaa family, Rafah Zoo was the first amusement and leisure park for communities in the Gaza Strip.

Jihad Jumaa, a zookeeper and son of the zoo's owner, told Al Jazeera that his father's original mission had been to provide a place for Gaza's families - small children, especially - to relax and enjoy themselves.

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PA police given more jurisdiction in occupied West Bank

May 1, 2015 | Al Jazeera English

An increase in unemployment due to life under occupation has given rise to crime in some Jerusalem suburbs.

For the first time since the second intifada, uniformed and armed police could patrol the streets of Abu Dis.

For the first time since the second intifada, uniformed and armed police could patrol the streets of Abu Dis.

ABU DIS, OCCUPIED WEST BANK - For the first time in more than a decade, the Palestinian Authority has been allowed to deploy police forces in Palestinian villages in areas controlled by Israel.

Years under occupation and a lack of proper law enforcement have transformed these once-thriving suburbs of Jerusalem into hubs for car thieves and drug and weapons dealers. Many residents are happy to see the police officers, even if their presence, so far, has been mainly symbolic.

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Israel's Joint List faces challenging road ahead

Mar. 29, 2015 | Al Jazeera English

Coalition of Arab parties is now the Knesset's third-largest bloc, but success hinges on its ability to form alliances.

Though one week has passed since Israel's legislative elections, Ayman Odeh - the leader of the Joint List, an alliance of four predominantly Arab parties - has not yet had a quiet moment.

Even before the final votes were counted, Odeh was busy visiting his geographical constituency, the first stop being the impoverished, unrecognised Bedouin villages in the southern Negev region. He had vowed during his campaign that he would visit these villages after the election.

"We are the only party that talks about national and social rights for both Arabs and Jews," Odeh told Al Jazeera.

Although the Joint List estimates that the number of Jewish votes was only a few thousand, he nevertheless sees the alliance as representing a new era in Israeli politics - as a force that fights for the interests of all marginalized groups.

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West Bank Bedouins fear 'a second nakba'

Mar. 23, 2015 | Al Jazeera English

An Israeli plan to forcibly transfer Bedouins to nearby Palestinian villages has met with
staunch resistance.

Residents of Abu Dis erect a tent in 'Bawabet al-Quds' to signal that they want to decide who lives and builds in the village's land. Feb 16, 2015 ©Lena Odgaard

Residents of Abu Dis erect a tent in 'Bawabet al-Quds' to signal that they want to decide who lives and builds in the village's land. Feb 16, 2015 ©Lena Odgaard

ABU DIS, OCCUPIED WEST BANK - In the middle of a small campsite consisting of two tin shacks, a group of men and women huddled around a fire burning in a barrel - oblivious to the gathering rainclouds and the Israeli military jeeps and soldiers surrounding the camp.

On the side of one of the shacks, the words "Bawabet al-Quds" - Gateway to Jerusalem - were spray-painted in big red and green letters.

The camp was located on a hillside next to the Palestinian village of Abu Dis, about four kilometres south of Jerusalem. It overlooked neighbouring Palestinian villages, as well as the red-roofed Israeli settlement of Ma'ale Adumim and a number of Bedouin communities of the Jahalin tribe.

Adel Salah, the mayor of Abu Dis, explained that the camp was established at the beginning of February after villagers noticed Israeli authorities preparing the area for the relocation of the nearby Bedouins.

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'We have a circus in Palestine'

Jan. 4, 2015 | Al Jazeera English

Palestinian youth are combatting the occupation and conservative social values - through circus.

Screenshot of the article on the front page of Al Jazeera's website

Screenshot of the article on the front page of Al Jazeera's website

BIRZEIT - A group of young men carry large barrels down the stairs and roll them across the concrete surface of the courtyard into a large, grey circus tent.

It is the only circus tent in Palestine and belongs to the Palestinian Circus School, located in the small Christian village of Birzeit in the West Bank. The school recently launched its winter semester, with a significant increase in participants: 220 students this year compared with 160 last year. This is largely due to a new programme for 8- to 12-year-olds living in the neighbouring Al Jalazon refugee camp.

The school is based in a renovated old Ottoman style building with thick, yellow, stone walls and vaulted ceilings. In one room are trampolines and mattresses; in another hangs a trapeze, and in the adjacent storage room are shelves filled with colourful juggling clubs and rows of unicycles.

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Palestinians reclaim Gaza 'buffer zone'

May 5, 2014 | Al Jazeera English

Despite threats to their safety, Palestinians are farming in Gaza buffer zone as a way to regain land and livelihoods.

UMM AN-NASER, GAZA STRIP - Last year, Mahmoud Abu Madek was not a farmer. Sitting on his knees between newly planted potatoes and beans, 27-year-old Abu Madek expertly ensured that water from the irrigation system reached the seedlings. He carefully selected these two types of crops so their harvest seasons would overlap, guaranteeing him an income for a longer period.

"I haven't had a job before. This is the first opportunity I've had to work on land," Abu Madek told Al Jazeera. "For me it's a way to make an income and cover the needs of my family."

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Umm An-Naser, Palestinians work in newly established fields in the buffer zone. Nov. 5, 2013  ©Lena Odgaard

Umm An-Naser, Palestinians work in newly established fields in the buffer zone. Nov. 5, 2013  ©Lena Odgaard

Palestinians hit the right notes in Gaza

Apr. 18, 2014 | Al Jazeera English

Music school helps relieve tensions in conflict-torn Gaza Strip, but access to instruments remains a challenge.

9-year old Joanna plays piano at Edward Said Music Academy in Gaza, Nov. 10, 2013 ©Lena Odgaard

9-year old Joanna plays piano at Edward Said Music Academy in Gaza, Nov. 10, 2013 ©Lena Odgaard

GAZA CATY - From the outside, Gaza’s only music school does not look like one.

A grey-and-white cement building, it could easily pass for an office or apartment complex. But for the approximately 200 children who attend, it is not about appearance; it is about sound.

In the hallway of the Gaza Music School, classical music mixes with Eastern tones. In one room, a nine-year-old girl has one of her first piano lessons, singing with her teacher as she carefully tests the keys. In another room, two teenage girls play the violin - but they rush to close the door, giggling, when they notice someone is listening.

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What happened to Gaza's Apollo statue?

April 8, 2014 | Al Jazeera English

A precious statue vanished after its discovery in Gaza last summer and many suspect it is now a hostage to politics.

DEIR AL-BALAH, GAZA: Last summer, a life-size bronze statue of Apollo, the ancient Greek god of light and music, miraculously surfaced in Gaza. The work of art, which is 1.7 metres tall and weighs 450 kilograms, could be worth as much as $340m, according to Gaza's antiquities authority.

But it has since vanished from the public eye - and experts fear that the roughly 2,500-year-old statue could be lost or damaged forever as it has become hostage to a political dispute.

"It was a Friday and I went to fish," said fisherman Jawdat Abu Ghrab of how he discovered the statue. Standing on a cliff near the Gaza town of Deir Al-Balah, he pointed to the sea beneath him. "I discovered the area was full of rocks. I thought I would try and explore it - maybe I could find fish. But suddenly I discovered something in the water. I saw something buried in sand - one arm was raised. I was shocked because it looked like a human."

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Upsurge in Palestinian 'honour killings'

Mar. 25, 2014 | Al Jazeera English

Rights groups demand new laws to protect women from family violence after a spate of deaths.

Gaza City, Palestine - Two teenage Palestinian girls were killed in separate incidents last month in so-called "honour killings", revenge attacks carried out most often by family members against women suspected of "immoral sexual conduct".

The deaths sparked protests with more than 100 people assembling outside the general attorney's office in Gaza on March 3, demanding violence against Palestinian women come to a halt. Five women died in honour killings in the Palestinian territories in 2011. That number rose to 13 in 2012 and doubled to 26 last year.

"For the past three years, the number of women killed have increased each year," said Mariam Abu al-Atta, coordinator of the Amal Coalition to Combat Violence Against Women, at the recent demonstration. "Today we are here to stop these crimes. Criminals should be punished by law."

Wasting away in the Gaza Strip

Nov. 20, 2013 | Al Jazeera English

Closure of 'lifeline' tunnels means fuel shortages, power cuts, and sewage on the streets.

AL-SABRA, GAZA STRIP - Sami Haddad waded through ankle-deep sewage after a lack of electricity caused pumps at a wastewater treatment plant to break down. Around him there was a sense of panic with men shouting at each other and children crying.

The streets were dark and people edged along the walls covering their noses with one hand and holding their mobile phones in the other, using them as torch lights to find a dry spot to step.

"We're covered in filth from the sewage. The children are scared and we do not know what to do," Haddad told Al Jazeera.

"We have asked the government to do something, but they say there is no more fuel. We ask for help from anywhere. If the pumps don't start again, the sewage seeps into people's homes and their lives are in danger."

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