A long-distance runner from the blockaded Gaza Strip has begun his long road to the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. Nader Masri is one of four Palestinian Olympic hopefuls. But he had been unable to leave for the games because Israel and Egypt sealed Gaza's borders after Hamas took over the territory in June. On Thursday, following pleas from human rights activists, Israel gave Masri special permission to leave Gaza for the West Bank. From there, he hopes to head to a track in China. Masri, a 5,000-meter runner, has a personal best of 14 minutes, 24 seconds, almost a minute slower than the Olympic qualifying time. However, the Olympic Committee offers 90 slots for athletes from select countries who couldn't qualify otherwise.