West Bank's Ahli plays out historic draw in Gaza

Historic match ends in stalemate and was witnessed by around 7,000 fans in Gaza.

    Palestinians long riven by geography and factional feuding enjoyed a rare show of unity on Thursday in a football match that brought together teams from their two territories.

    Ahli Al-Khalil, the top team in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, had travelled to the Gaza Strip to face off with the coastal enclave's champion Al-Shejaiya - the first such visit since 2000.

    The game ended in a goalless draw, a result perhaps welcome to some amid efforts to heal the internal rifts from a 2007 civil war between Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas's long-dominant Fatah faction and rival Hamas Islamists.

    West Bank team arrives in Gaza

    Around 7,000 fans packed Gaza's Yarmouk stadium, which was decked with Palestinian national flags.

    More than 1,000 security men from the Hamas-run Interior Ministry in Gaza kept order.

    "Today represents the unity of land, the unity of people. Today Palestinian sport defeated the Israeli occupier," said Abdel-Salem Haniyeh of the Palestinian Higher Council of Sport.

    The teams will compete again for the Palestine Cup on Sunday in the West Bank city of Hebron, and the winners will play in the next Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Cup.

    Jibril Al-Rajoub, chairman of the Palestinian Football Federation (PFA), said he planned to form a joint league for Gaza and the West Bank.

    "From day one, I made clear that sport has nothing to do with division," Rajoub told Reuters.

    The PFA has accused Israel of hampering its activities and restricting the movement of players between the Gaza Strip and West Bank.

    The PFA wanted Israel to be kicked out of FIFA but had to back out of the proposal and amend it due to insufficient support from other member boards at the Congress in May this year.

    Officials told Al Jazeera that the permission to let Ahli Al-Khalil cross the border is part of the deal between Israel and the PFA following the withdrawn proposal.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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