Around 4,300 runners from Palestine and all over the world joined on Friday the Free to Movement Marathon in Palestine that is held for the fourth year in a row.
Nader Halawa, chairman of the Federation in Gaza, told reporters that the Israeli authorities refused to allow the 103 runners, including 19 females, to travel from Gaza to Bethlehem, in the southern part of the West Bank to join the Marathon.
Hundreds of runners gathered on Friday morning at the yard of the Church of Nativity in the city of Bethlehem. They ran near the Separation Wall that Israel built in the West Bank in 2002.
Runners are Palestinians and foreigners coming from 50 countries. The marathon was organized in coordination with the Danish Organization (Free to Movement) in support for the Palestinians' free movement.
Israel has been imposing tight restrictions on the movement of the Palestinians in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip under security pretexts and keeps them in their homes and towns unable to travel from one place to another.
The Palestinian mayor of Bethlehem Vira Baboun and other Palestinian officials attended the opening ceremony of the marathon, where Baboun was the one who gave the signal for the runners to start.
Halawa added that all of the attempts made by the Palestine Football Association and human rights organizations to convince Israeli authorities to allow the participants to join the marathon were unsuccessful.
He described the decision as "unfair." Halawa called for the intervention of international sports organizations in order to stop "Israel's violations against Palestinian sports."
According to Haaretz, Israel accused the Palestinians of submitting applications too late, saying "it cannot process exit permits in time for the runners to leave Gaza for Friday's race."