GAZA CITY — Israel has barred 11 Palestinian soccer players from traveling from Gaza to the West Bank to play in Friday’s Palestine Cup final second leg, their club said.
Shabab Rafah are 2-0 up against Ahli al-Khalil of Hebron from Tuesday’s first leg in Gaza City but only 15 members of their squad were allowed to travel for the return leg, club president Khaled Kwaik told AFP.
Those missing include a striker and two of the club’s three goalkeepers.
“Banning the goalkeepers will negatively affect the team’s performance in the event of an injury to the (remaining) keeper,” Kwaik said.
A spokesperson for the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), a Defense Ministry agency that is responsible for civilian administration in the West Bank, said Israel barred entry for 11 people on the team and its staff “because of security reasons.”
The spokesman said the team submitted requests for entry too close to players’ and staff’s planned departure date, suggesting Israeli authorities did not have enough time to vet them.
Fifteen people from the squad were allowed to leave Gaza through the Erez Crossing.
Gaza is controlled by Hamas, an Islamist terror group that seeks to destroy Israel.
Despite the bans, the rare game between teams from the Gaza Strip and the West Bank will go ahead on Friday, the Palestinian Football Association said.
The two territories are separated by Israel and the Palestinians looking to travel between them must apply for permits from the Jewish state.
West Bank and Gaza teams play in separate leagues, with the winners contesting the cup.
Last year Israel’s Shin Bet security service initially barred seven players from Shabab Khan Younis in the Gaza strip. The agency said the team members were barred due to “severe negative security background.”
However, a few days later the players received permits, and the final was able to go ahead.
The cup was stopped for 15 years largely due to problems with Israeli permits, but restarted in 2015 after world soccer governing body FIFA intervened.