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7 Apr, 2014

Palestinian Olympian has to seek an Israeli court’s OK to compete in a marathon

GAZA CITY, Palestine, Apr 4 (NNN-WAFA) – A Palestinian Olympian from the Gaza Strip said, he had asked Israel’s Supreme Court to overturn a ban on him passing through Israel, to join a marathon in the occupied West Bank.

Nader al-Masri, who was prevented from participating in the first Bethlehem marathon in 2013, again sought permission to transit the Erez crossing from Gaza to Israel this year and was again refused, he said.

“I applied for a permit to go to Bethlehem through the Erez crossing, to take part in the marathon taking place on Apr 11, but unfortunately I was informed last Friday that Israel rejected my application,” he said.

Gisha, an Israeli watchdog that works to facilitate Palestinian freedom of movement, said, it took up Masri’s case. “Our petition to the Supreme Court… was served this morning,” it said.

The spokesman for the Israeli defence ministry unit, responsible for coordinating civilian affairs with the Palestinians, could not immediately be reached for comment, but Gisha published the unit’s written response to its application on Masri’s behalf.

“At the present time, in view of the current diplomatic-security situation, the entry of residents of the Gaza Strip to Israel is not allowed, except in exceptional humanitarian cases, with emphasis on urgent medical cases,” it said.

Gisha says, Israeli rules do allow Gazans to attend West Bank on “special events sponsored by the (western-backed) Palestinian Authority.”

In this case, it said,”The Olympic Committee of the Palestinian Authority invited Masri to take part.”

Masri, who finished last in his 5,000 metres heat at the 2008 Beijing Games, said that, joining runners from the West Bank was deeply important to him.

“This marathon is important to me, it will be the first time I can take part in the Palestinian marathon and meet friends I only talk to on the phone,” he said. “I have crossed Erez numerous times. I am a Palestinian athlete and I have won several awards. I have nothing to do with politics and I do not know why Israel denied me a permit.”