Israel bars footballers from leaving Gaza for West Bank match

Israel bars footballers from leaving Gaza for West Bank match

Thursday's final was the first Palestinian match to be played in the Gaza Strip since 2000

The Israeli authorities have stopped several players from Gaza’s Ittihad Al-Shejaiya football team from leaving the Gaza Strip via Israel’s Erez border crossing to play a scheduled match in the occupied West Bank.

Ittihad al-Shejaiya is slated to play the final match of the Palestinian Football Cup against West Bank-based football club Ahli Al-Khalil on Sunday.

In a Friday statement, Ittihad al-Shejaiya said its members would not leave the blockaded strip until the entire team was allowed out of the coastal territory.

Earlier this week, Ahli al-Khalil players entered the Gaza Strip for the first time in 15 years for a scheduled match with Ittihad Al-Shejaiya.

Due to the Israeli travel hindrances, however, the match – which ended in a goalless draw – was postponed until Thursday.

Thursday’s final was the first Palestinian match to be played in the Gaza Strip since 2000, when the Second Intifada – a Palestinian popular uprising – erupted against Israel’s decades-long occupation.

Although the uprising ended some five years later, the Gaza Strip has continued to groan under a tight Israeli-Egyptian blockade – first imposed in 2007 – that has deprived the enclave’s roughly two million inhabitants of most basic needs, including food and medicine.

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