efe-epaGaza

19 young people from the Gaza Strip on Sunday continued to recover from having a limb amputated after being shot by Israeli forces during the mass protests that began Mar. 30 calling for Palestinians' right to return to their homeland.

Children as young as 11 years old have been shot by Israeli snipers near the Gaza border, sparking international condemnation and ending the dreams of a normal childhood for boys and girls such as Atta Allah al-Fayomi, 16, who said he had trained to become a professional soccer player.

"When I was shot, I did not know that after three days I would lose (my leg)," al-Fayomi told EFE from Gaza's Shifa Hospital, after being hit in the right leg on Apr. 13, the third consecutive Friday of demonstrations.

Al-Fayomi's family says Israeli authorities refused the boy permission to be moved to a hospital with better facilities in the West Bank or Israel.

Israel's decade-long siege on the Gaza Strip has pushed the healthcare system to the brink of collapse, with the United Nations saying in Feb. that "Hospitals have already begun to close" due to the lack of electricity.

One eleven-year-old boy, Abdul Rahman Noufal, ended up losing his left leg despite being allowed by Israel to pass through its territory on Friday to the West Bank city of Ramallah for treatment.

Dr. Samir Abu Sneima, head of surgery at the European Hospital in eastern Gaza, told EFE the number of children losing arms and legs could have been much higher.

"The 19 cases were the most serious, in which we were forced to amputate, however, we managed to avoid it in 60 cases throughout the strip with precise operations," Abu Sneima said.

The humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders (MSF) warned on Saturday that "unusually serious bullet wounds and devastating consequences" were seen for more than 500 Palestinians in Gaza, and that "95 per cent of leg injuries will leave the majority of patients with severe physical disabilities in the long term or even for life."

The Israeli army told EFE that it is reviewing this information and that it would give an answer in the near future.

Israel argues that its troops have used great restraint and accuses the Islamist movement Hamas, which governs the Gaza Strip, of using the protests to approach the border fence to place explosive devices and to try to turn the area into a combat zone.

Since Mar. 30, around 1,650 people have been wounded by live ammunition in their upper or lower extremities, and seven have had both legs amputated, according to the spokesman for the Palestinian Ministry of Health in Gaza, Ashraf al-Qedra.

The spokesman also said Israeli forces had killed 37 people, including four minors.