The Israeli authorities have banned 36 Palestinian athletes from taking part in the Palestine Marathon in Bethlehem, Al-Quds online has reported. The athletes all live in the besieged Gaza Strip. Israel's move has been condemned by the Palestinian Athletics Federation (PAF).
"The Palestinian Olympic Committee informed the federation about the ban of 36 out of 50 runners," explained Ramzi Al-Joron, the PAF's Deputy Head. He pointed out that the ban also includes six sports administrators from Gaza. He described the move as "unjustified" and added that the athletes are "disappointed" as they have been training for months to take part in the marathon.
Nader Al-Masri was Palestine champion in 2014 and is among those banned from travelling to Bethlehem. This is the third year that he has been prevented from taking part in the race.
The International Palestine Marathon is scheduled to take place in Bethlehem on Friday under the slogan of "Freedom of Movement". The organisers hope to highlight the Israeli restrictions imposed on the movement of Palestinians in the occupied territories.
According to race supervisor Itidal Abdul-Ghani, 6,000 athletes are expected to take part in the marathon, which is more than double the figure for last year. She noted that athletes from 26 countries across Europe, Africa and Asia will run on Friday. Britain has 150 runners registered for the race which starts in the historic yard of the Church of Nativity and crosses the Separation Wall.