Gaza athlete still runninng despite West Bank marathon ban

Thu Apr 10, 2014 8:38am EDT
 
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By Nidal al-Mughrabi

GAZA (Reuters) - Kicking up dust on the back roads of northern Gaza within sight of the Israeli fence that seals off the enclave, Olympic athlete Nader Al-Masri is still training, despite being barred from competing in his people's largest sporting event.

Masri, who has participated in 40 international contests including the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, was denied a permit by Israeli authorities to travel to the occupied West Bank for the Palestine Marathon on Friday.

"I'm sad. This is a race for all Palestine and I wanted to participate, but unfortunately the Israeli side coldly rejected me," said the 34-year-old policeman.

The Palestine Marathon, was inaugurated last year as an expression of statehood and of the right to free movement demanded by Palestinians.

This year it is being run against the backdrop of heightened diplomatic tensions, with Israeli-Palestinian peace talks on the verge of collapse amidst mutual recriminations

In a statement to Reuters, an Israeli government body in charge of permits said: "The marathon is supported by the Palestinian Authority and is tainted by political shades which delegitimize the State of Israel."

It said Masri's case did not meet the requirements for travel out of Gaza, without elaborating.

He was also barred from running in last year's race - which starts in the West Bank town of Bethlehem and loops round a 10 km route.   Continued...