In first, Iraq national soccer team to play match in West Bank
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In first, Iraq national soccer team to play match in West Bank

Technically still at war with Israel, the Iraqi national squad will come to Ramallah, at the request of the Palestinian Authority; will need Israel’s okay

Iraq's national football team celebrates after an international friendly soccer match between Iraq and Syria in Baghdad,, March 26, 2013.  (AP Photo/ Khalid Mohammed/File)
Iraq's national football team celebrates after an international friendly soccer match between Iraq and Syria in Baghdad,, March 26, 2013. (AP Photo/ Khalid Mohammed/File)

BAGHDAD, Iraq — Iraq’s national soccer team is set to travel Thursday on its first-ever visit to the Palestinian territories where it will face off against the Palestinian national squad in the West Bank, a team official said Monday.

Most teams in Arab countries — many of which do not recognize Israel — refuse to visit the Palestinian territories because Israel controls the West Bank’s borders and blockades the Gaza Strip to prevent Hamas importing weaponry.

But Palestinian leaders have for years called on Arab countries to send sporting and cultural delegations to help ease their isolation.

The friendly match with Iraq will be held Saturday in Ramallah, the West Bank’s administrative center.

“A Palestinian delegation will wait for the Iraqi team in Amman and escort it to Ramallah,” Iraqi team official Basil Gorgis told AFP.

Iraq fought in wars against Israel in 1948, 1967 and 1973 and is still technically at war with the Jewish state. It was not immediately clear if Israel would give the team permission to enter the West Bank.

The Palestinian team, a FIFA member since 1998, in May squared off against the Iraqi squad in the southern Iraqi city of Basra.

Times of Israel Staff contributed to this report

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