Palestine Cup Final Postponed After Israel Bars Gazan Players From Entering West Bank

The Palestinian Football Association requests aid of international organizations after six players were barred from entering Israel on Wednesday.

Amr Abu Edah kicks the ball while surrounded by players from Hebron's Al-Ahly soccer club during the Palestine Cup final at Alyarmouk stadium, Gaza City, Gaza, July 26, 2016.
Adel Hana, AP

The Palestine Cup final was postponed by two days on Saturday, the head of the Palestinian Football Association announced, after a number of Gazan players were barred from crossing through Israel on Wednesday to reach the West Bank town of Hebron, where the game was scheduled to be played.

Jibril Rajoub, who heads the football association, informed FIFA of its decision and said that it was now requesting the aid of international organizations to see all eight players and professional staff be granted free passage to the West Bank by Israel. Unless all the players are allowed to participate, the game will be canceled, the association said.

On Thursday, Haaretz reported that six players, including the goalies, and one coach and the team’s spokesman, were barred from entering Israel. Only 10 players were allowed to continue on their way to Hebron, where the championship finals are now due to be played on Monday.

In addition to being barred from entering Israel, a number of players from the Khan Younis team reported what they called humiliating treatment by Israeli forces at the Erez Crossing.

Palestinian Football Association officials said the checkpoint problems aren’t unique to matches involving teams from Gaza; players have also been delayed at Israeli checkpoints while trying to travel between the northern and southern West Bank for matches with other West Bank teams. They said the game would not be held if all players and staff were not permitted to enter the West Bank.

“This behavior is embarrassing,” Rajoub said of the incident at the time. “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. 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 added.

Reacting to Haaretz’s questions, the Shin Bet said that “after investigating, a decision was made to bar entry to some members of the team due to damaging security information and in light of the security situation.”