Members of a Gazan soccer team received entry permits to Israel Monday, allowing their team to play in the second leg of the Palestine Cup.
The final game of the tournament between Gaza’s Shabab Khan Younis and Hebron-based squad Ahli Al-Khaleel was to have been played last Saturday.
However, Israel’s Shin Bet initially refused to allow six members of the Gazan team, along with two of the support staff, to cross the border. Ten players plus additional staff were permitted through, but they were detained for 12 hours at the border, according to media reports.
The rescheduled game will be played on Tuesday night in Hebron. Ahli Al-Khaleel carries a 1-0 lead after the first match. The Palestine Cup pits the winners of the West Bank Premier League and the Gaza Strip League. The winners qualify for the AFC Asian Cup.
On Sunday, the head of the Palestinian Football Association, Jibril Rajoub, submitted a complaint about the incident to the international soccer governing body, FIFA.
Before letting them through, the Shin Bet said the team members were barred due to “severe negative security background.” Israel has maintained a blockade on Gaza since the Islamic terror group Hamas took over in a violent coup in 2007.
At the beginning of July FIFA sent a special committee headed by Tokyo Sexwale to Israel and the Palestinian territories to examine ways of improving soccer links between Israelis and Palestinians.
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