Israel bars 30 athletes & 36 musicians from leaving Gaza

10 Apr

92cc68f7cf65c40d500f6a706700120aIsrael bars Palestinian Olympian, Nader Masri, from leaving Gaza

Further to our post yesterday, about Israel’s travel ban that blocks Gazan olympic runner Nader Masri, from participating in a big international marathon event in the West Bank, another 29 runners and 36 young musicians have now also been denied permission to leave the besieged enclave.

By IBRAHIM BARZAK , Associated Press, 8 April, 2014

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) — Israel has barred 30 runners, including an Olympic athlete, from leaving the Gaza Strip to participate in a marathon later this week, highlighting Israel’s tight restrictions on travel in and out of the Hamas-ruled territory, Palestinian officials said Tuesday.

In the case of the Olympic runner, Nader Masri, the travel ban was upheld Tuesday by Israel’s Supreme Court. Masri, 34, participated in the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.

Separately, 36 young musicians requested to leave Gaza for a week-long music competition in the West Bank and east Jerusalem, but were also denied permission, organizers said. An Israeli defense official said a final decision has not been made. The competition begins Wednesday.

The cases underscored Israel’s restrictions on Gaza, which human rights activists argue amount to collective punishment and are often arbitrary. They say the travel ban is part of an Israeli attempt to sever ties between Gaza and the West Bank, territories that lie on opposite ends of Israel and are sought by the Palestinians for a future state, along with east Jerusalem.

Israel and Gaza’s other neighbor, Egypt, have severely limited access to Gaza.  Virtually all exports from Gaza are banned and most of Gaza’s 1.7 million people cannot travel abroad. Israel considers Hamas a terrorist group.

The Palestinian Olympic Committee said it had asked Israel for permits for the 30 runners to leave Gaza so they could attend the second annual international marathon in the West Bank town of Bethlehem on Friday.

Itidal al-Mugrabi, a senior official in the committee, said all requests were denied last month. She said the Bethlehem event, which will also include shorter races, was expected to draw some 700 runners from Europe in addition to local athletes.

After being denied a permit, Masri approached the Israeli rights group Gisha, which appealed to Israel’s Supreme Court. [Article abridged]


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