Palestinian media reports on Sunday stated that the Israeli military, manning the Eretz checkpoint to the north of Gaza, have denied access to an Italian sports delegation since early Sunday morning.

The delegation, made up of 101 fans of various Italian sports teams, plan to visit Gaza for the fourth consecutive year.  Israel has denied entry for this most recent delegation, the Palestinian coordinator of the visit explained.  The Palestinian Ministry of Youth and Sports of the ruling Hamas party had completed preparations for the visitors' accommodation, the coordinator added.

Last June, the Israeli military increased the intensity of its seige of Hamas-ruled Gaza after the Islamist party took control there.  Israel has not recognized the Hamas-led government since it won elections in January 2006.  After the June takeover the Israeli government declared the party and "enemy entity."