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The children got a warm welcome when they arrived at Dublin Airport this morning. Gaza Action Ireland/Facebook

Warm welcome for children from Gaza ahead of football tour around Ireland

The Gaza Kids to Ireland project aims to show solidarity with Gaza and raise awareness of the current climate in Palestine.

THIS MORNING, A group of 19 children from Al Helal Football Academy in Gaza, Palestine, arrived in Dublin Airport for a nine-day trip around the country.

Organised by Gaza Action Ireland (GAI), the project sees the children – aged between 10 and 14 – embark on a hectic schedule around Ireland, where they’ll play matches in Dublin, Galway, Cork and Leitrim.

GAI coordinator Zoe Lawlor said that, as previous trips to Ireland from young footballers in Gaza were such an “uplifting, joyous experience”, they had to “do it all again this year”.

The programme was originally launched by former Ireland manager Brian Kerr and former Irish rugby international Trevor Hogan, and the project aims to “give the kids some relief from the stress of living under blockade” in the region.

Speaking in support of the project in 2014, Kerr said: “What the Gaza Action Group is trying to provide is an opportunity for these kids, and maybe many kids in the future, to aspire to play football, to see something outside the restrictive lifestyle of Palestine, of Gaza and to play football in a joyful manner among Irish kids in a calm, peaceful situation.”

The football academy itself struggles due to a lack of facilities, equipment and safe places to play against the backdrop of crises in Gaza. Few of the children have ever left Gaza, according to GAI.

Just yesterday, a Palestinian was said to have been shot dead by the Israeli army in Gaza, as clashes erupted amid heightened tensions in recent weeks.

The children have started their first day in Ireland with a trip down to the astro pitches in Ringsend for a few games of football, and they’ll then head on to Sandymount at midday today.

Fundraising events are being held all over the country over the next few days and weeks.

After a whirlwind trip around the country, the children will leave Ireland on 6 August.

Read: Football can provide an escape for kids growing up in parts of the world ravaged by war and poverty

Read: 7-year olds in Gaza have suffered three wars and yet they’re still trying to play football

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