The final of the Palestine Cup has been postponed after Israel denied Gaza-based players permits to travel, the Palestinian Football Association (PFA) said Wednesday.
The second leg of the final between Balata FC and Khadamat Rafah, the winners of the West Bank and Gaza leagues respectively, was due Wednesday, PFA Vice President Susan Shalabi told Agence France-Presse (AFP). The Gaza-based team Khadamat Rafah requested travel permits to the West Bank for 35 people, but Israel granted just four, three of them to club officials, Shalabi said. "The Israelis are very adamant in their refusal," she added, saying they had cited security concerns that they did not specify. A Khadamat Rafah official told AFP the club was still waiting for final decisions and was hopeful of securing more permits in the coming days. "We are ready at any moment. If we got the permits now, in 30 minutes we will be there," Hodaifa Lafi told AFP.
"The game has to go ahead." She said it was impossible to discuss a date for the second leg until Israel granted more permits. There was no immediate comment from COGAT, the Israeli defense ministry body responsible for Palestinian civil affairs. The first leg, played on Sunday in Gaza, ended 1-1. The West Bank and Gaza are separated by Israel and Palestinians looking to travel between the two must apply for Israeli permits. The tournament faces problems every year with permits for players to leave the Hamas-run Gaza Strip, which Israel has kept under a crippling blockade for more than a decade.
The cup did not take place for 15 years largely over problems with Israeli permits but resumed in 2015 after world football body FIFA intervened. But the Palestinians have since accused FIFA of failing to follow its own rules after it decided to pursue no further action against Israel over football teams based in settlements in the occupied West Bank. "The way FIFA is dealing with the Israelis is encouraging them to act with impunity," Shalabi said.