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Boxer Promises to Dedicate His Medal

October 10, 2002

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BUSAN, South Korea (AP) _ Boxer Monir Abukeshek has little in the way of equipment or sparring partners at his home in a Palestinian refugee camp in the West Bank.

``Just the bag and my brothers,″ the 27-year-old light-heavyweight says.

On Friday, Abukeshek will fight in the semifinals of the Asian Games, where he is guaranteed a medal _ making him the Palestinians’ first games medalist. The losers of the semifinals are each awarded bronze medals, while the winners go on to contest the gold and silver.

Abukeshek said his training has been interrupted this year by fighting between Israeli troops and Palestinians at home, which he left five weeks before his first child was born to prepare for the Asian Games in South Korea.

``I am hoping very much for the gold medal,″ Abukeshek said Thursday after a light workout in his room at the athletes’ village in Busan. ``I will present this medal for my people.″

But not before he presents it to his son, Yazen, who he has seen only in photographs since he was born Aug. 18.

``If I win the medal, I will put it around my son’s neck,″ Abukeshek said.

Palestinian athletes are competing in 16 events at the Asian Games, which has drawn 44 countries from Japan to the Middle East.

Palestinians have competed in three of the past four Asian Games, which are held every four years. They gained International Olympic Committee recognition in 1993 after the Israeli-Palestinian peace accords. Palestinians competed at their first Olympic Games in Atlanta in 1996.

Palestinian officials say Israeli military incursions into Palestinian territory have killed athletes and destroyed sporting facilities. At a May meeting of National Olympic Committee chiefs in Malaysia, Zaher Akram, the Palestinian delegation’s assistant secretary general, claimed the number of athletes killed was 134.

Abukeshek, an agricultural studies graduate, lives with his wife and child in Askar refugee camp near Nablus, the scene of many bloody clashes since Israel launched a crackdown in Palestinian territories earlier this year.

His five brothers and three sisters also live in the camp.

In April, Israeli tanks and armored personnel carriers surrounded Askar as part of operations in response to suicide bombing attacks in Israel. Dozens of people were killed in the clashes.

Askar camp is known as a center for armed militants from Fatah, the movement headed by Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.

Abukeshek said that on April 15, four of his friends were killed in one day of fighting. He stopped training for three weeks.

``The intefadeh (uprising) has affected my training and preparation too much, because of the closures and the soldiers attacks on the streets in Palestine,″ he said.

Abukeshek said that on his way to training camps in Jordan and Tunisia he was held up for two weeks in Jericho while Israeli officials approved travel papers.

``I hope the occupation will end,″ he said. ``Our people desire freedom so that we can live our lives like other people.″

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