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Israel bans nine Palestinian players from leaving Gaza

25th Aug 2017

Elham Asaad Buaras

Israeli authorities prevented nine players of a Palestinian football club from leaving the Gaza Strip to participate in the final match of the Palestinian Cup in the Israeli occupied West Bank.

The Rafah Youngsters team was slated to play a Hebron-based team, Ahly al-Khalil on August 4. Palestinian Youth and Sports Supreme Council member, Abdussalam Haniyye, wrote on his Facebook page that the players were denied exit from the Gaza Strip on August 2.

Haniyye asked Fifa, the world’s football governing body, to take action to end the controversial violations.

Last year’s Palestinian cup final was delayed after six players from a Gaza team were refused permission to travel. The decision was later reversed after a Fifa complaint to Israeli authorities.

Israel’s Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) explained that the ban was for “security reasons” and late submission of paperwork.

However, Palestinian FA has claimed that Israel was restricting the movement of Palestinian players and is allowing Israeli clubs to play in illegal settlements. President of the Palestinian FA, Jibril Rajoub, is campaigning to have Israel suspended from Fifa because of this, but withdrew the bid at the 11th hour, sparking anger among Palestinian.

In addition Rajoub, along with groups such as Human Rights Watch, has led efforts to have Israel suspended from Fifa or quit sponsoring Israeli matches in the Occupied West Bank.

For the past two years, Fifa’s monitoring committee has repeatedly delayed the publication of its draft report on six Israeli clubs playing in the illegal settlements. The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) accused Fifa of neglecting its own statutes. Fifa rules bar member states from holding matches on the territory of another member without permission.

“For two years, Fifa has ducked its responsibilities and allowed the Israel FA to violate Fifa’s own statutes by including football teams based in illegal Israeli settlements built on occupied Palestinian land,” PACBI’s Hind Awwad said.

In June, Fifa delayed a decision on whether to ban Israeli teams operating the illegal settlements. In response, the PA appealed to the world’s top sports court in an attempt to force Fifa to rule on the issue.

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