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Israel blocks Gazan runners from Bethlehem marathon

Palestinians need a permit to travel from Gaza to the West Bank [AFP]

Date of publication: 1 April, 2016

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Israel has blocked over a hundred Gazan athletes from taking part in the Palestine Marathon by refusing them entry permits, officials said Thursday.

Israel has denied entry permits to over a hundred Palestinians from the Gaza Strip seeking to take part in the Palestine Marathon after an administrative dispute, officials said Thursday.

Among the Gazans prevented from travelling ahead of Friday's marathon in the West Bank was reigning champion and Olympian Nader al-Masri.

George Zeidan, one of the organizers of the "Right to Movement" marathon, said an initial list of 750 names was rejected. When a shorter one was sent it was then refused for being too late, he added.

COGAT, the Israeli defence ministry body responsible for implementing government policies in the occupied Palestinian territories, said the forms for 102 runners from Gaza were "submitted in too short notice and given a timeframe which is not the adequate amount of time for dealing with such requests."

The marathon takes place on Friday and will see thousands of people start running from near the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem in the occupied West Bank.

The Gisha NGO, which campaigns for freedom of movement for Palestinians, said civilians had been caught in an administrative dispute.

"We are disappointed, if not surprised, to hear that civilians in Gaza are again paying the price for the apparent negligence and disregard of both Israeli and Palestinian officials," a statement said.

Gaza and the West Bank, both considered parts of a future Palestinian state, do not share a border and anyone wishing to travel between the two must cross through Israeli controlled territories.

Agencies contributed to this report

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