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Israel denies Gaza football team barred from West Bank

Aug. 7, 2015 1:22 P.M. (Updated: Aug. 8, 2015 9:47 A.M.)
Players of Ahli al-Khalil attend a training session in Gaza City on August 5, 2015. (AFP/File Mohammed Abed)
GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Gaza-based football clubIttihad al-Shujaiyeh said Friday that Israeli authorities prevented players and staff from leaving the besieged enclave to face West Bank rivals Ahli al-Khalil, while Israel denied the allegations and blamedPalestinian Football Association President Jibril Rajoub.

The Gaza-based team was scheduled to leave the coastal territory together with Hebron's Ahli al-Khalil after having played an historic game a day earlier at the Yarmouk stadium in Gaza.

But four of the players and three of the team's staff were refused travel permits, club spokesperson Alaa Shamali said.

The players were identified as Hussam Wadi, Maysara al-Bawwab, Omar al-Arier and Hashem Abed Rabbu.

The second leg of the cup game, scheduled for Sunday, has now been postponed and the next 24 hours will prove crucial as to whether talks with FIFA can lift Israel's travel restrictions,Shamali said.

Ittihad al-Shujaiyeh had agreed before the game that they would not leave Gaza unless the entire team was allowed to travel, Shamali added.

But the Coordination of Government Activities in the Territories Unit (COGAT) said in a statement that it had coordinated travel permission for 37 players fromIttihad al-Shujaiyeh and had required four players to attend a preliminary inquiry and so arranged their crossing a day earlier.

Palestinian Football Association President Jibril Rajoub canceled their permission to cross, COGAT's statement added, saying that coordination was once again arranged for Friday but canceled by the Palestinian official.

"Palestinians are giving a cynical use to sports, damaging only the Palestinian public," the Israeli statement said.

The two teams had faced each other in an historic match on Thursday which ended in a 0-0 draw.

The West Bank and Gaza Strip compete in separate leagues, of which the two teams which faced off on Thursday are the champions.

Israel had originally denied travel permits for the Hebron-based team to enter Gaza, before lifting restrictions.

Routine restrictions placed on Palestinian players by Israeli authorities under the pretext of security has long hindered the Palestinian National Football team's ability to play.

Current and former players have spoken of hours held at checkpoints, being shot at with live Israeli ammunition, the ongoing restriction of their movement, and rampant racist verbal abuse at football matches that the Israel Football Association has ignored.
Stewart / USA
I blame this security fiasco squarely on the desk, of the political and military wings of Hamas in Gaza.
07/08/2015 13:31
@ Stewart / USA too
In addition to this trivial football matter, the political and military wings of Hamas in Gaza are also to blame for far more serious matters: the Naval Blockade, and all the hardships, including injuries, deaths, and destruction, caused by their tunnels, rocket provocations, and war crimes.
07/08/2015 17:44
Veronica / France
For the last 6 months Israeli badminton player Misha Zilberman has had a visa application to Indonesia refused time and time again. This means he is set to miss the World Championships, which are scheduled to start on Monday 10th of August.
07/08/2015 18:23
Stewart / USA
@ Stewart/ USA too: Thank you for reminding me of these pertinent activities and war crimes Hamas has committed.
07/08/2015 18:51
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