RAMALLAH: The final leg of the Palestine cup competition was postponed at the weekend after Israel prevented players from Gaza travelling to the West Bank for the fixture.
Israel refused to let six players and the coach of Shabab Khan Yunis cross its territory to the West Bank, said Jibril Rajoub, president of the Palestinian Football Association.
The Palestinian Cup pits the winners of leagues in the two territories against each other for a place at next season’s AFC Asian Cup.
Shabab Khan Yunis players had been hoping to cross Israel to the West Bank city of Hebron to play Ahly al-Khalil, who visited Gaza last week and beat their hosts 1-0 in the first leg of the final.
But the entire Shabab Khan Yunis team was detained and interrogated in “inhuman conditions” at the Erez border crossing into the coastal enclave, Rajoub said.
The six players who were turned back did not have permits from Israel to enter its territory, he said, adding that the PFA postponed the match for 48 hours. That might still leave time for the permits to be issued, allowing the players to travel and the match to go ahead.
Rajoub said the PFA had complained to football’s international and Asian governing bodies. Om the face of it, the row contravened attempts by a FIFA commission, led by South African Tokyo Sexwale, to improve cross-border relations.
Gaza, ruled by the Islamist movement Hamas, is under blockade by Israel, which fought a devastating war with the group in 2014. It is separated from the West Bank by 60 kilometres (36 miles) of Israeli territory, and Gazans are subject to rigorous border restrictions.