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Gaza teen blinded by Israeli airstrike: I spend my days inside

Jan. 7, 2012 10:23 P.M. (Updated: Jan. 9, 2012 1:59 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Three years on from an Israeli attack that left him blind, 17-year-old Mahmoud Mattar says he spends most of his days inside and has little hope for the future.

Mahmoud was injured in an Israeli airstrike on Gaza City on Jan. 7, 2009 during Israel's brutal three-week war on the Gaza Strip.

Israeli warplanes targeted a mosque in Sheikh Radwan, and Mahmoud, who was 14 at the time, ran to site of the attack. Two further strikes hit the area, killing two teenagers and injuring Mahmoud, who was thrown unconscious.

He was left totally blind by the attack, and told the Palestinian Center for Human Rights that he now spends his days inside.

"I used to go by myself to the sea. I was independent. Now I need someone to go with me everywhere I go. I go out maybe once every two or three months."

He is also self-conscious of his injuries. "I don’t want to go out due to the comments I get from children. Anytime I do I cover my face with my clothes and dark glasses."

He added: "The glasses broke yesterday."

His injuries have taken a psychological toll on the teenager, who was suspended from school after having difficulties with students and teachers.

"I have become very nervous since the attack. If someone is kidding with me I will try to hit them with anything at hand," he says.

His hopes of being a PE teacher or opening a sports club were destroyed in the strike, he says, and he has lost interest in education.

"Now my only wish is to leave my formal education and focus on my religion and learn the Koran."

Several charities have promised to provide reconstructive surgery to clear his breathing, which he struggles with due to transplanted bone matter in his nose, but the organizations have not delivered.

"It would be great if someone could take me to the desert and leave me there, that way I wouldn’t have to see people," Mahmoud says.

PCHR submitted a criminal complaint to Israeli authorities on Mahmoud's behalf on Dec. 30, 2009, but has yet to receive a reply.

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