The Israeli Occupation Authorities (IOA) prevented Wednesday evening nine Palestinian footballers from Gaza’s Khan Younis Youth Club from leaving the Gaza Strip via Israel-controlled Erez border crossing to play a scheduled match in the West Bank.
Khan Younis Youth Club was slated to play the second leg match of the Palestinian Football Cup against West Bank-based football club Ahli al-Khalil on Saturday 30 of July.
The first leg match ended 0-1 in Ahli al-Khalil’s favor. Spokesman for the Palestinian Football Federation Mustafa Siyam affirmed that Israeli authorities had prevented the travel of nine footballers of Khan Younis Youth Club to play in a West Bank match including the team captain Hussam Batrawi. “We made several contacts to allow the nine football players’ travel but it was in vain,” he said.
Only ten footballers were allowed to cross Erez crossing in addition to the team’s coach and a number of journalists, he pointed out. “Due to the Israeli travel hindrances, the final match would be cancelled as no match could be played with ten footballers.” For its part, the Youth and Sports Department of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) has condemned the Israeli action against Palestinian sportsmen through the refusal to issue permits for nine Palestinian players from Khan Younis Youth Club.
The players were meant to participate in Palestine’s Championship held in the West Bank.
The Sports Department said in a statement, “Israel defied all agreements which it promised FIFA it would respect,” adding that this “requires international intervention … especially the United Nations, to stop Israel and bring it to account for these violations.”
The Department added that Israel continues its violations against Palestinian sports by continuously carrying out punitive measures and by violating the rules specified by FIFA. Four players from al-Khalil’s Ahli team were prevented from entering Gaza two days ago.
The team won a match against Khan Younis Youth Club and was scheduled to play another match in al-Khalil.
Gaza Strip has continued to groan under a tight Israeli-Egyptian blockade – first imposed in 2007 – that has deprived the enclave’s roughly 2 million inhabitants of most basic needs, including food and medicine.