JERUSALEM (AFP) -- Israel has refused to grant permission to 26 runners from the Gaza Strip to travel to the West Bank to run in the first Bethlehem marathon on April 21, officials said on Thursday.
The race, which begins at the Nativity Church, is the first event of its kind in the West Bank with more than 400 people registered to run, half of whom are Palestinians, organizers say.
But a group of runners from the Gaza Strip who signed up for the race, have been denied permission to travel by the COGAT, the Israeli defense ministry unit responsible for coordinating civilian affairs with the Palestinians.
According to Gisha, an Israeli watchdog which works to facilitate Palestinian freedom of movement, the group includes Olympic runner Nader al-Masri and another four people who had registered to run the full 26 miles and six who signed up for the 21.1 km half marathon.
The group also includes at least one woman runner and four trainers. more