Israel backs down, allows Palestinian footballers to travel

Sunday, August 7, 2016


Hebron's Ahly al-Khalil plays Gaza-based Shejaiya in the 2015 Palestine Cup. Ahly al-Khalil won the title, which it successfully defended on August 2 after Israel caved in to let players travel for the match.

Israeli authorities reversed a travel ban on six of the players on August 1, 72 hours after Israel refused to allow 11 Palestinian football players travel from Gaza to the West Bank to take part in the Palestine Cup, 972mag.com said that day.

The approval followed a Palestinian complaint to FIFA, football's international governing body, and a petition that gathered nearly 150,000 signatories, TeleSUR English said. It paved the way for the final Palestine Cup game to be played on August 2.

The game was originally scheduled to take place on July 30, but was delayed due to an Israeli-imposed travel ban on 11 players from Gazan club Shabab Khan Younis. Justifying the travel ban, the Israeli Security Agency said it had “severe negative security background” on the banned players.

In a similar incident a week earlier, Israel prevented seven Palestinian players from Hebron-based Ahly al-Khalil from entering the Gaza Strip to play Shabab Khan Younis, citing the fact that they hold Israeli ID cards.

Despite having only 11 players available due to Israeli restrictions, Ahly al-Khalil won the match 1-0, with the July 30 match intended as the second leg.

972mag.com said last year, Israel also blocked players from a different Gaza-based team travelling to Hebron for the national championship game. Then, as now, Israel approved the permits only in the wake of pressure from FIFA.

The delayed August 2 game ended in a 1-1 draw, enough for Hebron's Ahly to win the Cup for a second year running.

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