Israeli occupation has denied travel permits to players on Gazan football team which had hoped to play a local championship final against a rival Palestinian club in West Bank.
Khadamat Rafah is set to play Balata FC in the West Bank on Wednesday. But without the hard-to-obtain Israeli travel permits, the game is unlikely to take place as scheduled.
“We think that this is clear evidence that this Israeli occupation is cruel but from our side we keep raising it at all the levels of FIFA.
“We insist that this is our right and we will continue exerting every effort to allow this team to do this match,” the head of the Palestinian Football Association, Jibril Rajoub, said.
The football team’s predicament highlights the daily difficulties Gazans face under an Israeli blockade, imposed after the Islamic Resistance Movement Hamas won free elections in 2006.
Israel has greatly restricted movement of Gazans and requires travellers such as students and medical patients to obtain permits to leave, which are increasingly harder to come by and are withheld arbitrarily.
Rajoub said his association has long lobbied FIFA to sanction Israel for its measures to restrict the movement of Palestinian players. He slammed the withholding of permits and pledged to hold the game.
Under the Palestinian Football Association’s terms, the winners of the Gaza league play the West Bank champions in a two-leg final, one in the Gaza Strip and one in the West Bank.
The Gaza game took place earlier this year and this week’s game, which had already been delayed for two months over access to permits, was to take place near the West Bank city of Nablus.
The winner of the final game goes on to compete in the Asian Champions League.
Gisha, an Israeli rights group that had challenged the move in court, criticised Israel’s permit system.
Palestine Post 24