Palestinian teens swimming for the first time in sea near which they grew up

Palestinian teens Mahmoud Barbakh and Mohammed Jaroun grew up just a few minutes from the Mediterranean, but had never been to the beach before.

On Monday, they waded into the waves with their jeans rolled up, then abandoned all caution and threw themselves into the surf. "It was the sweetest thing in the whole world," said 15-year-old Mahmoud, beaming.

The boys' beach adventure was made possible by Israel's withdrawal from the Gaza Strip. In southern Gaza, Israeli settlements took up the beachfront for three decades, and Palestinians in that area were barred by Israeli troops from reaching the Mediterranean, the AP informs.

A few hours after the last Israelis left Monday, hundreds of Palestinians, including many giddy teenagers, enjoyed the water. One used a refrigerator door as a makeshift surfboard. Nearby, youngsters collected spent Israeli bullet casings, stuffing them into empty bottles.

Adults also had fun. Mohammed Deir, 41, said he closed his building supplies store in celebration. "The only job I have today is to go to the beach and the border," he said, as an Israeli navy boat patrolled off the coast.

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