Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories refuses to allow runners from Gaza to reach Bethlehem Marathon

April 18, 2013. Despite the calls of dozens of Israelis, including prominent marathon runners among them, COGAT notified journalists that the requests of 26 runners from Gaza to travel to the Bethlehem Marathon being held this coming Sunday have been denied.

The response reads: “The request of 26 Gaza Strip residents to participate in the Bethlehem Marathon was examined by relevant authorities and denied since it was decided that it does not meet the criteria determined for passage between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank”. The statement continues, “Entry by residents of Gaza into Israel is only allowed in extreme humanitarian cases, with an emphasis on urgent medical cases. The runners’ request is not of this nature”.

COGAT’s response actually does not line up with the current criteria for travel between Gaza, Israel and the West Bank. In section 16, the criteria states that “Periodically, and subject to submission of a detailed request from Palestinian Authority, representatives in the Judea and Samaria area and the authorization of the Minister of Defense, residents of the Gaza Strip are permitted to enter Israel in order to participate in conferences or special events sponsored by the Palestinian Authority”.