Palestinians hold first marathon in West Bank

Bethelem, April 21 (IANS) About 1,000 Palestinian and foreign runners participated Sunday in the first West Bank marathon that highlights Israeli restrictions in the Palestinian territories.

The race starting point was in front of the Church of the Nativity, the traditional birthplace of Jesus. The athletes ran four times around the holy city and in several points the race track went along the concrete barrier Israel has been building in the West Bank since 2002, reports Xinhua.

The organisers say that the ‘Rights to Movement’ marathon is an attempt to demonstrate the sufferings caused by the barrier and the Israeli checkpoints in the West Bank. Jebrel Al-Rajoob of the Palestinian Olympic Committee said that the participation of runners from 30 countries and regions “proves that the Palestinian people enjoy global solidarity”.

“This is a message to the Israelis to stop imposing facts on the ground unilaterally and that the Palestinian people have their right in an independent state,” Al-Rajoob said.

Before starting to run, the competitors made a minute of silence to remember the victims of Boston Marathon attacks.

Meanwhile, Al-Rajoob slammed Israel for banning 26 athletes in the Gaza Strip from travelling to the West Bank to join the race. “This is an evidence of the Israeli hatred toward sport and humanity.”

The participants came from Europe and the United States. The organisers also say that Israel prevented Arab runners from Libya and the United Arab Emirates from entering the West Bank.

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