Time: 2pm (+2 GMT)
On Wednesday, 3 July 2019, Israeli forces denied travel permit for footballers from the Rafah Services Sports Club to play the final of Palestine’s Championship, held in the West Bank.
Documentation by Al Mezan Center for Human Rights shows that the Palestinian Football Association (PFA) had requested permits for the club team, of 35 persons: 22 players, six technical staff, and seven administrative personnel and board. The request was made for the team to play the final, scheduled for 5pm on Wednesday, 3 July 2019. The Rafah team would play against the Markaz Balata team in the West Bank governorate of Nablus. However, Israeli authorities denied permission to 31 persons of the Rafah Club team, including 21 players.
Hothayfa Lafi, Rafah Club board member, reported to Al Mezan that while the team was waiting for permission in the afternoon of the scheduled day of travel, Israeli authorities communicated the rejection of permits requests. The PFA issued a press release on this denial.
This collective denial of the basic right to free movement is far from incidental. It falls squarely within Israel’s long and systematic policy of blanket bans on Palestinians’ movement in Gaza. Palestinian athletes in the West Bank are no exception, either, with the latest example being as recent as 30 June 2019. Israeli authorities then prevented three members of Markaz Balata team from crossing to Gaza to play against the Rafah Club team. One of the prevented members was Balata team’s main goalkeeper.
Al Mezan condemns Israel’s denial of permission for these athletes to compete in the national championship as well as its systematic violation of Palestinians’ right to free movement.
As the Israeli authorities continue to perpetuate this violation of basic rights in breach of its own obligations under international law, Al Mezan calls on the international community to exercise pressure on the Israeli government to comply with its obligations. Al Mezan calls on the FIFA to take steps to ensure that Palestinian football players enjoy their due rights and that the occupying power is held accountable for impeding the development of Palestinian sports.