The Latest: Argentine official apologizes over Israel match
JERUSALEM (AP) The Latest on Argentina calling off soccer match with Israel (all times local):
A senior official at the Argentine Football Federation says the national team decided to cancel its World Cup warmup match with Israel after receiving threats from the Islamic militant group Hamas.
The official, who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity due to safety concerns, did not provide evidence or details on the alleged threats.
A Hamas official mocked the reports that Hamas threatened the players, calling them unrealistic and saying they don’t deserve a comment. The official also spoke on condition of anonymity because the person was not authorized to comment on the issue.
– Debora Rey in Buenos Aires, Argentina
The Palestinian militant Islamic group Hamas is praising Argentina for the cancellation of a World Cup warmup match with Israel in Jerusalem.
Husam Badran, a Hamas spokesman, says the group ”applauds” the move and reiterated Hamas’ position that rejects ”all forms of normalization” with the Jewish state.
Hamas is sworn to Israel’s destruction and has ruled Gaza with an iron fist since it took over the territory in 2007.
Israel and the United States consider Hamas a terror organization for its bombings, shooting and rocket attacks targeting civilians.
Israel’s minister of sport, Mir Regev, earlier Wednesday said the game was canceled due to ”terror elements” threatening superstar Lionel Messi, his family and other players on the team.
She did not name who was behind the threats.
Israel’s Ambassador in Buenos Aires lamented the suspension of the friendly between the national team of Argentina and his country in Jerusalem and considered that the main reason for calling it off was the ”fear” of the Argentine players.
Ambassador Ilan Sztulman told Radio Mitre that ”Israel is completely safe,” questioning the measure taken by the Argentine Football Association on the eve of protests by pro-Palestinian groups against Saturday’s match.
”The reason is not political, the national team (Argentina) has no problem with the State of Israel-simply, it was afraid,” said the diplomat.
Israel’s sports minister said earlier that threats made to Argentinian players were the reason for the abrupt cancellation of a World Cup warmup match in Jerusalem.
Sztulman said that, following a conversation with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Argentine President Mauricio Macri ”tried to convince AFA’s people” to review the measure.
Israel’s sports minister says threats made to Argentinian players are the reason for the abrupt cancellation of a World Cup warmup match in Jerusalem.
Mir Regev said Wednesday the match was canceled following ”threats by terror elements sent to Messi and his family and to other players.”
Opposition figures, however, accused the headline-seeking sports minister of politicizing the event by insisting on moving the game from Haifa to contested Jerusalem and by trying to orchestrate a politicized photo-op with Messi.
Regev rejected the backlash saying ”there is no bigger lie” than the allegations her decision to move the match to Jerusalem aided in its cancellation. She said the Argentinians had not objected and that Messi had wanted to visit holy sites in Jerusalem.
Claudio Tapia, president of the Argentine Football Association, is apologizing for cancelling a friendly match with Israel in Jerusalem, claiming the safety of the players was at stake.
Israel’s headline-seeking sports minister faced a barrage of criticism after Argentina called off the World Cup warmup because of pro-Palestinian protests.
”What has happened in the last 72 hours, the actions, the threats that have occurred have led us to take the decision not to travel,” said Tapia during a news conference in Barcelona, where the Argentine team is training prior to the start of the World Cup next week.
”(We) apologize. It’s nothing against the Israeli community, the Jewish community and I would like everyone to take this decision as a contribution to world peace,” he added.
The head of Israel’s soccer association says the Palestinians have ”crossed a red line” with the sudden cancellation of a game with Argentina’s national team this week.
Ofer Eini blamed Jibril Rajoub, head of the Palestinian Football Federation, on Wednesday for ”doing all he can” to remove Israel from international football.
Eini said protests are legitimate but Rajoub’s calls for Arab and Muslim fans to burn photos and T-shirts of Barcelona superstar Lionel Messi went too far.
Argentina has called off a World Cup warmup match against Israel after protests by pro-Palestinian groups.
Activists protested outside the sports complex in Barcelona where Argentina is preparing ahead of the World Cup. Some waved the jersey of Argentina’s national team stained with red paint resembling blood.
Israel’s sports ministry says a ”negotiation” is taking place over the canceled Israel-Argentina friendly match.
The ministry said talks had been going on for several hours Wednesday, and that a statement will be issued by Sports Minister Miri Regev.
It gave no further details.
Israel’s headline-seeking sports minister faced a barrage of criticism after Argentina called off a World Cup warmup match in Jerusalem because of pro-Palestinian protests.
Israel’s headline-seeking sports minister is facing a barrage of criticism after Argentina called off a World Cup warmup match in Jerusalem because of pro-Palestinian protests.
Miri Regev had insisted on moving the game to contested Jerusalem and was orchestrating a politicized audience with Lionel Messi.
Opposition leader Yitzhak Herzog called the snub a ”spectacular own goal” by Regev that delivered victory to boycotters of the Jewish State. Labor Party leader Avi Gabbay called for a police investigation into Regev’s ”corrupt conduct.”
The head of the Palestinian football association, Jibril Rajoub, had called on Arab soccer fans to burn Messi posters if he participated.
Regev says terrorist groups had made threats against Argentina’s players and their families. She accused members of the Israeli parliament of being ”Trojan Horses who aid terrorism.”