Palestinians welcome after Argentina cancels Israel game

The Dome of the Rock Mosque in the Al Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem's Old City is seen through a door with the shape of star of David

The Dome of the Rock Mosque in the Al Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem's Old City is seen through a door with the shape of star of David

In addition to his efforts to expel Israel from FIFA, Rajoub has a long record of anti-Israel rhetoric, including naming sporting tournaments in honor of terrorists, regularly comparing Israel to Nazi Germany, and calling a football match between Israeli and Palestinian children "a crime against humanity".

Israeli daily Yisrael Hayom, considered close to Netanyahu, expressed ire at Argentina with its front-page headline: "They surrendered to terrorism: The game against Argentina has been cancelled".

Argentina is one of the most popular national teams among Israelis.

He called it a victory for "ethics and values" of sports.

"When it became known that it would be in Jerusalem, the first thing we did was get in touch with A.F.A.to alert them about the sensitivity and delicate situation that this implied, including because it could involve security issues", the Argentine foreign minister, Jorge Faurie, said in an interview with local radio station Mitre. The stadium is located in a neighborhood which had once been an Arab village destroyed by Jewish militias in the 1948 Palestinian Nakba.

The sold-out game in Jerusalem was hotly opposed by Palestinians, who claim the eastern part of the city, occupied and later annexed by Israel, as the capital of their future state.

It is arguably this "all or nothing" approach that has seen the Palestinian movement gain very little ground over the past century. He continued: "The last 72 hours led us to make the decision not to travel", emphasizing that his main responsibility was to watch out for the health and safety of the players.

Messi is widely quoted as telling Argentina sports channel TyC Sports: "As a UNICEF ambassador, I can not play against people who kill innocent Palestinian children".

On Friday the army said in a statement it had repelled around 10,000 Palestinians who converged on five points of the border. The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement targeted the Argentinian team through its branch in the South American country.

Late Friday, Israel said Gaza militants opened fire and struck an Israeli military post.

After the game was officially cancelled, the Israel Football Association said that they would take action against the PA in worldwide forums after the "brutal and physical threats against the Argentine team".

"The supreme leader told us we should come in large numbers to show the world that the actions of the United States and Israel will not have any effect on our people", said Hassan Dorabi, a 30-year-old teacher.

Argentina open their Group D campaign in Russian Federation against Iceland on June 16.

"It's not Jerusalem or Haifa", Regev said at the same press conference.

The head of the Palestinian FA, Jibril Rajoub, had called on Arab soccer fans to burn Messi posters and T-shirts if he participated. He had a picture of him with Messi and a sign reading: "From Palestine, thank you Messi".

On Wednesday, Rajoub thanked the Argentines for "following their conscience".

Regev's remarks came a day after Argentina made a decision to scrap a planned exhibition soccer match against the Israeli national team set to be held in Jerusalem on Saturday under pressure from Palestinians and following alleged threats against its players, including superstar captain Lionel Messi.

"We want to remind the world that the Israeli occupation is committing the same massacres that the Nazis committed", said activist Ahmed Abu Artima.

There was no immediate reaction on the cancellation from Israel, but Israeli news site Ynet reported that prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu had called Argentine President Mauricio Macri and urged him to intervene.

Israel's Sports Ministry later claimed a "negotiation" about the match was underway, but gave no further details.

Regev, meanwhile, has dug in her heels.

But after intense Palestinian protests, Argentina announced its team would not attend the event.

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