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Palestine Football Cup final postponed as Israel denies Gazan players entry to Hebron

July 30, 2016 9:13 P.M. (Updated: July 31, 2016 4:12 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- The Palestinian Football Association announced Saturday that the Palestinian Football Cup Finals between Ahli al-Khalil from the occupied West Bank district of Hebron and Shabab Khan Yunis from the Gaza Strip would be postponed for 48 hours after Israeli authorities prevented several Palestinian team members from passing the Erez Crossing from the Gaza Strip on Wednesday.

Association head Jibril al-Rjoub said during a press conference held in Hebron that after a meeting between al-Rjoub, heads of professional football clubs, and several journalists, the decision was made to postpone the match.

On Wednesday, several team members were prevented from passing the Erez checkpoint from the besieged Gaza Strip into Israel to travel to the West Bank, where the finals were supposed to take place in Hebron on Saturday. Israeli authorities reportedly held the players for 12 hours, before allowing only ten players to continue on to the West Bank.

The Palestinian Football Association had said at the time that the final game would be canceled unless all players were allowed to participate in the match, according to Israeli newspaper Haaretz.

Al-Rjoub said there would not be a match unless all Palestinian team members were present, adding that the game follows FIFA rules and would not be dictated by Israel.

He also pointed out that the FIFA President Gianni Infantino and the chairman of the FIFA Monitoring Committee Israel-Palestine, Tokyo Sexwale, were expected to visit Gaza.

“The players arrived at the checkpoint and were forced to wait 12 hours and to undergo interrogations and checks that have no relationship to security," Rjoub was quoted by Haaretz on Wednesday as saying. "I heard they were asked about their neighbors and about all kinds of things in Gaza that have no connection to security.”

“The sole purpose was to wear them down for hours upon hours in the burning heat, and in the end to allow only part of the team to pass the checkpoint and reach Hebron,” he said, while adding that the incident was “embarrassing.”

Palestinian Football Association officials also pointed out that they had dealt with similar problems in previous matches, including running into challenges getting all the players past Israeli-controled checkpoints within the West Bank when players compete with other West Bank teams, according to Haaretz.

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