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Israel denies Gaza footballers entry to West Bank

The Palestinian Cup final was postponed on Saturday after Israeli authorities prevented several footballers from leaving the Gaza Strip through the Erez crossing, the Palestinian Football Association announced on Saturday.

Ahli Al-Khalil from the occupied West Bank district of Hebron and Shabab Khan Yunis from the Gaza Strip were due to meet in the final on Saturday. This had to be postponed for 48 hours.

The team was due to enter the West Bank on Wednesday. Israeli authorities reportedly held the players for 12 hours before allowing only ten to continue on to the West Bank.

The Palestinian Football Association had said that the final would be cancelled unless all players were allowed to participate, according to the Israeli newspaper Haaretz.

"The players arrived at the checkpoint and were forced to wait 12 hours and to undergo interrogations and checks that have no relationship to security," Al-Rjoub was quoted by Haaretz as saying on Wednesday. "I heard they were asked about their neighbours and about all kinds of things in Gaza that have no connection to security."
"The sole purpose was to wear them down for hours upon hours in the burning heat, and in the end to allow only part of the team to pass the checkpoint and reach Hebron," he said.

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