Palestine Cup final postponed after Israel denies Gaza team permits
The Palestine Football Association (PFA) on Wednesday announced the postponement of the Palestine Cup final after Israel denied entry permits for a Gaza-based team to play in the occupied West Bank.
"The Palestine Football Association regrets to announce the postponement of the Palestine Cup Final match between Balata FC and Khadamat Rafah FC due yet another flagrant intervention by the Israeli occupation authorities to deny Palestinians their basic right to play football," the PFA said in a statement.
The Palestine Cup, a two-legged competition, is played between the cup winners of respective competitions in Gaza Strip and West Bank.
Khadamat Rafah FC had submitted a delegation list of 35 players and staff for Israeli permits, but only four were approved.
The club president, vice president, a team doctor, and one player were the only approvals granted permits by Israel.
The PFA said the rest of the team and backroom staff were denied permits on the pretext of "security reasons".
The occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip are separated by Israel, and Palestinians looking to travel between the two must apply for Israeli permits.
The Palestine Cup competition did not take place for 15 years due to problems with Israeli permits but resumed in 2015 after world football body FIFA intervened.
The PFA indirectly referred to the recent US-led economic workshop in Bahrain in its statement, in which the president of FIFA spoke about the role of sport in encouraging peace and promised to build more football pitches in the occupied Palestinian territories.
"While more football is being discussed as a 'bridge for peace' in some political workshops, convened in the absence of Palestinians, the foundations for these bridges are being torn down by the occupation."
Israel has a history of hindering freedom of movement for Palestinian footballers in the occupied territories, and subjected players and staff to interrogations when passing through Israeli-run checkpoints and boundary crossings.