More Than 100 Gaza Athletes Barred From Running in Palestinian Marathon

Israel, accusing the Palestinians of submitting applications too late, says it cannot process exit permits in time for the runners to leave Gaza for Friday's race.

AFP

Israel has effectively barred more than 100 Gaza runners from participating in a Palestinian marathon in the West Bank city of Bethlehem on Friday, by failing to issue permits for the athletes to leave the coastal territory.

The Palestinian Athletics Union in Gaza and the Palestinian Olympic Committee in Ramallah compiled a list pf potential participants and reported they had submitted it two weeks ago to the Palestinian civil committee in charge of coordinating the permits with Israel.

The Palestinian agency said it had submitted the application bearing 103 names, among them reigning champion and Olympian Nader al-Masri, to The Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories on March 24, a week before the athletes needed to depart from Gaza.

But the Coordinator wrote on its Facebook page on Wednesday in Arabic that the Palestinians' civilian affairs coordinating committee had submitted 102 names too late, and therefore the exit requests could not be processed in time.

The Israeli coordinator accused the Palestinians of "trying to create a provocation" against Israel by failing to submit the names in time to be processed.

"Senior Palestinian officials submitted a late application for the runners from Gaza to participate in the Bethlehem race. The request includes 102 runners and it was submitted at a time that doesn’t permit handling the request to permit their participation in the marathon and therefore we cannot handle the application," the Israeli post also said.

It further accused the Palestinians of making 'repeated attempts to make cynical use of athletics.'

The Oslo Accords created parallel coordination bodies for the Palestinians and Israel - the Palestinian coordinating committee subordinate to the civil affairs ministry in Ramallah and an agency of The Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, which is an arm of the Defense Ministry.

Gisha, an NGO which monitors both sides, has been approached by the Gaza athletes, and says that many times information is miscommunicated between the sides. The bottom line is that Palestinian civlians suffer, for not knowing the status of their applications or whether they have been received by the appropriate authority and handled, Gisha said.