Middle East

Israel rejects Gazan's plea to run in W. Bank marathon

In this March 1, 2012 file photo, Palestinian participants in the second Gaza marathon brave the wind on the beach road in Gaza City. (AP Photo/Adel Hana, File)

OCCUPIED JERUSALEM: Israel's Supreme Court has refused to allow a Palestinian Olympian from the Gaza Strip to take part in a marathon in the occupied West Bank, an Israeli NGO said Tuesday.

Court documents made available by Gisha, an Israeli watchdog that works to facilitate Palestinian freedom of movement, said that Nader al-Masri's request for permission to transit the Jewish state to join the April 11 Bethlehem marathon did not constitute "a humanitarian case...concerning urgent medical treatment."

"The petition is denied," the transcript of Monday's judgement concluded.

Gisha filed suit in the Supreme Court last week after Masri, who was prevented from participating in the first Bethlehem marathon in 2013, was again refused a crossing permit by the Israeli defence ministry unit responsible for coordinating civilian affairs with the Palestinians.

"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," the unit said in a written notification of its refusal.

Gisha says Israeli rules do allow Gazans to attend West Bank "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."

Israel tightened restrictions on Palestinians travelling in and out of Gaza after the Islamist Hamas movement -- which is sworn to the destruction of the Jewish state -- seized power in the coastal strip in 2007.

"Nader Al-Masri is another victim of the 'separation policy', the over-reaching, arbitrary and vague decision that, every day, inflicts harm on tens of thousands of Palestinians seeking only to live a full and normal life," Gisha said in a statement on Tuesday.

Masri finished last in his 5,000-metre heat at the 2008 Beijing Games.





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