Israel Grants Gazan Soccer Players Passage, Allowing Palestinian Cup Final to Proceed

Six players had been banned from reaching Saturday's final in Hebron, but FIFA intervened so the final is back on.

Palestinian Football Association President Jibril Rajoub announcing a decision to postpone the Palestinian cup final, July 30, 2016.
Hazem Bader/AFP

Israel permitted on Monday six soccer players from Gaza to enter the country for the Palestinian soccer cup final in Hebron.

In the wake of their entry, the Palestinian Football Association announced that the final, originally scheduled for Saturday, would be held Tuesday afternoon. The final had been postponed indefinitely after Israel's Shin Bet security service forbade six players from Khan Yunis from entering Israel due to "negative security material."

The Shin Bet confirmed that the players entered Israel, but stated that it did not want to explain why it changed its decision.

Executives of FIFA, the world governing body of soccer, have intervened over the past two days, asking Israel to allow the players' entry. The players entered through the Erez checkpoint on Monday without any delays.

According to Jibril Rajoub, the PFA chairman, the entry of the players and team staffers "proves that from the beginning there was no justified reason other than the desire to trip up and be cruel to the players." He said, "We only worked with international organizations in order to defend us, get the players in and hold the game tomorrow."

The winner in the game between the Gaza cup holder and the West Bank cup holder, called the Super Cup, is expected to represent Palestine in a tournament in Asia. Israel did not allow four players from Hebron to enter Gaza ahead of the team's first meeting, in which Hebron won by a goal. Some of the players not allowed into Gaza are Arab citizens of Israel.