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Palestine's first ever Olympian dies in Gaza from lack of treatment due to Israel's war

Runner Majed Abu Maraheel's death from kidney failure highlights dire healthcare situation in Gaza
Majed Abu Maraheel became the first athlete to represent Palestinians at the Olympic Games in Atlanta in 1996.
Majed Abu Maraheel became the first athlete to represent Palestinians at the Olympic Games in Atlanta in 1996 (X)

The first Palestinian athlete to participate in the Olympic games died on Wednesday at the Nuseirat refugee camp in Gaza as a result of kidney failure due to power outages and medical shortages as a result of the ongoing Israeli war and siege of the enclave.

Majed Abu Maraheel, who passed away at the age of 61, became the first athlete to be the flag bearer and represent Palestinians at the Olympic Games in Atlanta in 1996. Being a distance runner, he competed in the 10km race.

Since his breakthrough on the world stage, more than 20 Palestinian men and women have been able to compete at Olympic competitions.

"He was a Palestinian icon, and he will remain as such," his brother told Paltoday TV after the funeral. 

"We tried to evacuate him to Egypt but then the Rafah crossing was closed (by Israel), and his condition kept deteriorating." 

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In his preparation for the Olympics, Abu Maraheel would often be seen on his daily runs from his home in Gaza to the Erez Crossing with Israel, which Israel closed in October after imposing a full blockade on the Strip. Last month, it was reopened for the first time since then.

He would often have to pass through that crossing for his job as a day labourer in Israel.

After participating in the Olympics, Abu Maraheel went on to become a coach for other Palestinian runners hoping to replicate his presence at the international competition.

He went on to coach Nader el-Masri, another Palestinian from Gaza who competed in the 2008 Olympic games in Beijing.

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Abu Maraheel's death highlights the grim fate of many Palestinians who are facing kidney failure in Gaza.

A report from the Euro-Med Human Rights Monitor in March found that there were between 1,000 to 1,500 patients in Gaza with kidney failure, and that they are facing a "slow death" because of "a lack of medical and therapeutic services, medications and other necessities".

Since Israel's war on Gaza began in October, Israeli forces have launched a full siege on the enclave. In addition to killing more than 37,000 Palestinians, they have repeatedly targeted and attacked Gaza's hospitals and healthcare infrastructure.

A report late last month by the Washington Post said that only four of Gaza's 36 hospitals have not been damaged by munitions or been raided by Israeli forces.

However, the lack of supplies in the area because of Israel's blockade has further exacerbated the situation.

Israel denies blocking humanitarian aid into Gaza, though aid agencies say they are not able to get aid in because of Israeli restrictions.

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