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Palestinian soccer player detained at Jordan crossing

Jibril Rajoub sends complaint to FIFA head; Israel says footballer stopped for security reasons

Head of the Palestinian Football Association Jibril Rajoub speaks during a press conference in Ramallah, February 12, 2014. (Issam Rimawi/Flash90)
Head of the Palestinian Football Association Jibril Rajoub speaks during a press conference in Ramallah, February 12, 2014. (Issam Rimawi/Flash90)

A Palestinian soccer player was briefly detained by Israeli security personnel at the Allenby border crossing with Jordan on Thursday, prompting the head of the Palestinian Football Association, Jibril Rajoub, to send a letter of complaint to FIFA head Sepp Blatter.

Rajoub said the incident served as “proof” that Israeli promises to ease security restrictions on Palestinian players were insincere, Israel Radio reported Friday.

An Israeli security source told Israel Radio that the player, Sameh Marawbe, was detained for security reasons and was arrested six months ago for receiving funds and messages from Hamas representatives in Qatar to pass on to Hamas members in the West Bank city of Qalqilya.

The Palestinian team was en route to Tunisia for training.

The Israeli and Palestinian soccer associations were recently involved in a confrontation after the latter tried to have Israel suspended from the International Federation of Soccer.

The Palestinian Football Association said it would not drop its bid to have Israel removed. Blatter was in the region this week to try to resolve the issue and met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

“We will keep the proposal on the agenda (of the upcoming FIFA Congress) for sincere and open discussions by the 208 FIFA member associations,” Rajoub said at a joint press conference with Blatter on Wednesday.

Palestinians say Israeli security restrictions are limiting the movement of Palestinian players, visiting teams and soccer equipment.

“There will be no compromising on free movement of our athletes and officials,” Rajoub added.

Blatter was visiting Jerusalem and Ramallah to try to mediate the dispute between the two governments and convince the Palestinian Football Association to drop the bid to suspend Israel from FIFA’s agenda in a May 29 meeting in Zurich. Israel in turn has been making efforts to blunt the effort by the Palestinians.

Israeli leaders, including in the country’s soccer federation, have been lobbying intensely against the measure and calling the accusations against Israel baseless.

Even though Blatter opposes the Palestinian bid to have Israel suspended from FIFA, he informed reporters on Tuesday that he didn’t have the power to take the issue off the agenda.

He said the move was a “very unusual and a very serious matter,” but that Israel has not broken FIFA statutes.

AP contributed to this report.

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