Soccer (illustration)
Soccer (illustration) iStock

The annual “Palestine Cup” in soccer will not take place this year after Israel denied travel permits to most players on a Gazan soccer team which had hoped to enter Palestinian Authority-assigned areas of Judea and Samaria to play the local championship final against a rival club.

Khadamat Rafah is set to play Balata FC on Wednesday but the game is unlikely to take place as scheduled, The Associated Press reported on Monday.

A court in Jerusalem had upheld the state’s decision to bar the Gazan players on Monday.

The Israel Security Agency (Shin Bet) said a security check turned up information pointing to “most” of the team’s “links to terrorism.” That, coupled with heightened security threats from the Gaza Strip, prompted the agency to recommend the players be prevented entry, according to AP.

The Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), an Israeli defense body responsible for Palestinian civilian affairs, said every permit request is examined “individually and thoroughly.”

The final of the “Palestine Cup” was initially postponed in July after Israel denied Gaza-based players permits to travel.

Speaking to AP on Monday, Jibril Rajoub who heads Palestinian Football Association, accused Israel of cruelty.

“We think that this is clear evidence that this Israeli occupation is cruel but from our side we keep raising it at all the levels of FIFA. We insist that this is our right and we’ll continue exerting every effort to allow this team to do this match,” he said.

Rajoub said his association has long lobbied FIFA to sanction Israel for what it says are its efforts to restrict the movement of Palestinian players. He slammed the withholding of permits and pledged to hold the game.

Rajoub in the past has attempted to force FIFA to ban six Israeli teams based in Judea and Samaria. He claims that their presence there is in breach of FIFA statutes, which forbids another member association playing on another territory without permission.

After FIFA President Gianni Infantino announced his organization would not intervene in the issue, Rajoub accused FIFA of caving to Israeli pressure.

More recently, Rajoub was suspended for a year from FIFA for inciting hatred and violence, after he called on soccer fans to target the Argentinian Soccer Association and burn jerseys and pictures of Lionel Messi when he was scheduled to play a friendly game in Israel.