Israel Bans Gaza Olympian from Running West Bank Marathon

An Israeli court has ruled against a Palestinian runner's application to leave the Gaza Strip and run in a West Bank marathon.

Olympic runner Nader al-Masri, who participated in the 2008 Beijing Olympics, wanted approval to run in a marathon in the West Bank town of Bethlehem but the request was rejected by Israeli defence minister Moshe Yaalon. The appeal court upheld the original decision.

"The ban no doubt limits my ability to challenge other champions from elsewhere," Masri told ABC News.

Masri, who trains daily in the streets of Gaza, had high hopes that he would be granted approval to leave the Gaza Strip to compete in the West Bank but he fell foul of Israel's tough permission criteria, which were drawn up in line with the 2011 guidelines published by the Israeli military.

Israeli defence official Maj Guy Inbar said that Masri's request for entry to the West Bank was rejected because it "does not meet the rules for exceptions for sports events" and that the event itself had "political overtones". 

The majority of the enclave's population, ruled by Hamas, which is classified by many Western governments as a terrorist organisation, are prohibited from travelling abroad.

Head of human rights group Gisha said that Israel's aim in denying visas to Gazans was to "create a divide between the West Bank and Gaza, to remove Gaza from the conciousness of the Israeli public, to push Gaza away".

Israel's treatment of Palestinian athletes and footballers has led for Israel to be kicked out of Fifa.

The calls for Israel's removal grew louder after two Palestinian footballers were reportedly shot in the feet at an Israeli checkpoint, preventing them from ever playing football again.


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