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Gaza runner denied entry to West Bank for marathon

April 8, 2014 6:26 P.M. (Updated: April 11, 2014 6:27 P.M.)
GAZA CITY (Ma’an) -- The Israeli High Court of Justice on Tuesday turned down an appeal by the human rights group Gisha on behalf of Gaza runner Nadir al-Masri who was denied entry to the West Bank to compete in the Bethlehem marathon on April 11.

The panel of judges who rejected the appeal, though, highlighted that Israel’s regulations allow Palestinian footballers and some other athletes to leave the Gaza Strip to the West Bank.

The judges urged the Israeli authorities to apply the same rule to more athletes.

Al-Masri, 34, is an athlete who has joined several international competitions including the 2008 Olympics.

He was denied entry to the West Bank in 2013 to compete in Bethlehem's first-ever marathon.

The 2014 marathon is scheduled to kick off on April 11.

Court documents made available by Gisha said that al-Masri's request for permission to join the marathon did not constitute "a humanitarian case ... concerning urgent medical treatment."

"The petition is denied," the transcript of Monday's judgement concluded.

Gisha filed suit in the Supreme Court last week after al-Masri was refused a crossing permit by the Israeli defense ministry unit responsible for coordinating civilian affairs with the Palestinians.

"At the present time, in view of the current diplomatic-security situation, the entry of residents of the Gaza Strip to Israel is not allowed except in exceptional humanitarian cases, with emphasis on urgent medical cases," the unit said in a written notification of its refusal.

Gisha says Israeli rules do allow Gazans to attend West Bank "special events sponsored by the (Western-backed) Palestinian Authority."

In this case, it said, "the Olympic Committee of the Palestinian Authority invited Masri to take part."

Israel tightened restrictions on Palestinians travelling in and out of Gaza after Hamas came to power in the coastal strip in 2006.

"Nader Al-Masri is another victim of the 'separation policy', the over-reaching, arbitrary and vague decision that, every day, inflicts harm on tens of thousands of Palestinians seeking only to live a full and normal life," Gisha said in a statement on Tuesday.

Al-Masri finished last in his 5,000-metre heat at the 2008 Beijing Games.
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