A Palestinian cyclist, who lost his right leg after being shot by an Israeli sniper while protesting near the Gaza border fence, has accused organisers and riders in the Giro d’Italia of encouraging Israeli violence by agreeing to race in the country.
Alaa al-Dali underwent eight operations and eventually had his right leg amputated after being shot while participating in “Great Return March” protests on 30 March.
The 21-year-old had been in contention to race for Palestine at the Asian Games in Jakarta in August and told Middle East Eye that the Israeli army had “destroyed his dream”.
The Giro d’Italia, one of cycling’s most prestigious races, begins in Jerusalem on Friday and Israel will host two further stages before the race returns to Italy, drawing condemnation from Palestinian rights activists and Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaigners.
Al-Dali called on the international community to impose sanctions and a sporting boycott on Israel, rather than allowing it the “honour” of staging the race.
“It is very disappointing to know that people will be enjoying my favourite sport in the country whose army destroyed my dream,” said al-Dali. “Not fair. I am shocked and disgusted by the news.”
The race would only serve to highlight the gap between “the occupier and the occupied”, he added.
“This is contradiction at its finest. Such events are supposed to represent peace and humanity. I cannot see anything peaceful in shooting and causing me disability for standing about 200 metres from the border fence.”
Al-Dali’s 25-year-old brother Muhammed told MEE that doctors had opted to amputate Alaa’s leg because of damage to his bones and tissue.
But he said he believed there was a chance his leg could have been saved if he had not been denied permission by Israel to receive medical treatment in the West Bank.
The health care system in Gaza has been devastated by an 11-year blockade imposed by Israel after Hamas won elections, which has plunged the enclave into a humanitarian crisis.