Palestinian FA postpones cup final after Israel denies travel

The final of the Palestine Cup has been postponed after Israel denied Gaza-based football players permits to travel, the Palestinian Football Association said on Wednesday.

The second leg of the final between Balata FC and Khadamat Rafah, the winners of cups in the West Bank and Gaza respectively, was due to take place on Wednesday, PFA vice president Susan Shalabi told AFP.

Gaza-based team Khadamat Rafah requested travel permits to the West Bank for 35 people, but Israel granted just four, three of them to club officials, Shalabi said.

"The Israelis are very adamant in their refusal," she added, saying they had cited security concerns that were not specified.

A Khadamat Rafah official condemned the decision.

"In the end this is a sports team... we want to send a message of peace to the world," Hodaifa Lafi told AFP.

COGAT, the Israeli defence ministry body responsible for Palestinian civil affairs, said they received a request on June 16 for 35 people to travel.

"Although the application was untimely and therefore made appropriate processing pursuant to the clear guidelines impossible, COGAT went beyond that which was required of it, and, by means of all of the relevant parties, carefully reviewed the application," it said in a statement.

The first leg, played on Sunday in Gaza, ended 1-1.

The West Bank and Gaza are separated by Israel, and Palestinians looking to travel between the two must apply for Israeli permits.

The tournament faces problems every year over the granting of permits to players to leave the Hamas-run Gaza Strip, which Israel has kept under crippling blockade for more than a decade.

The cup did not take place for 15 years largely due to problems with Israeli permits, but resumed in 2015 after world football body FIFA intervened.

But the Palestinians have since accused FIFA of failing to follow its own rules after it decided to pursue no further action against Israel over Israeli settler teams based in the occupied West Bank.

"The way FIFA are dealing with the Israelis is encouraging them to act with impunity," Shalabi contended.

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