Gaza soccer team claims Israel banned 10 players

Shabaab Rafah team claims Israel barred 10 Palestinian Arab soccer players from travelling from Gaza to Judea and Samaria.

Ben Ariel ,

Soccer (illustration)
Soccer (illustration)

Israel has barred 10 Palestinian Arab soccer players from travelling from Gaza to the Palestinian Authority (PA)-assigned areas of Judea and Samaria to play in Friday's Palestine Cup final second leg, their club said Thursday.

Shabaab Rafah are 2-0 up against Ahly al-Khalil of Hevron from Tuesday's first leg in Gaza City but only 15 members of their squad are being allowed to travel for the return leg, club president Khaled Kwaik told the AFP news agency.

Among those who were prevented from travelling are a striker and two of the club's three goalkeepers, he said.

"Banning the goalkeepers will negatively affect the team's performance in the event of an injury to the (remaining) keeper," Kwaik said.

The Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) explained that the ban was for "security reasons" compounded by the late submission of paperwork.

"The request of the soccer players was received near the date of their departure," said a COGAT statement quoted by AFP.

But "their original request had been placed on the Palestinian side during the month of June," it said, implying that the delay was a deliberate effort to make Israel look bad.

Despite the bans, the rare game between will go ahead on Friday, the Palestinian Football Association said.

The PA has in the past claimed that Israel was restricting the movement of Palestinian Arab soccer players. Palestinian soccer chief Jibril Rajoub campaigned to have Israel suspended from FIFA because of this, but withdrew the bid at the 11th hour, sparking anger among Palestinian Arabs.

In addition Rajoub, along with groups such as Human Rights Watch, have led efforts to have Israel suspended from FIFA or quit sponsoring Israeli matches in Judea and Samaria, claiming they are being held on “stolen land”.

In June, FIFA delayed a decision on whether to ban Israeli teams operating in Judea and Samaria. In response, the PA appealed to the world's top sports court in an attempt to force FIFA to rule on the issue.