Arab-Israeli soccer match ends in violence
Tensions arising from Israel's recent incidents of violence spread Sunday night to a soccer game between the Arab-Israeli team Bnei Shakhnin and Beitar Jerusalem, whose fans are of the ultranationalist Jewish tendency.
Jerusalem: Tensions arising from Israel's recent incidents of violence spread Sunday night to a soccer game between the Arab-Israeli team Bnei Shakhnin and Beitar Jerusalem, whose fans are of the ultranationalist Jewish tendency.
Bnei Shakhnin, a team that includes Spanish player Abraham Paz, defeated Beitar Jerusalem 1-0. But the Sunday evening game ended in violent clashes and racist chants between fans of the two teams.
Given the evident risk, a massive police deployment had been ordered but they proved unable to prevent Jewish ultranationalists from entering the stadium waving the Israeli flag, while fans of the other team held up Palestinian banners.
The game proceeded with tensions steadily rising among the players, until fans of Beitar started chanting "Death to Arabs!"
Fans of Bnei Shakhnin, in return, began to chant "With our blood we will defend Al-Aqsa", in reference to the third holiest site for Muslims that is at the centre of the current violence in Jerusalem.
Incidents on the field began in the game's 85th minute, when a first fight among players broke out. The referee doled out individual yellow cards to a number of players; however, tension continued to rise.
That tension had been building up since last Friday, when Israeli police lifted the ban on playing football in Shakhnin out of fear that violent incidents would erupt throughout the city whose population is predominantly Arab.
One of the players for Beitar Jerusalem intentionally pushed a member of the rival team, causing another wave of protests among Bnei Shakhnin fans, who started to throw objects onto the pitch.
Security agents, players from both teams and Beitar's managers then went into the stands to attempt to calm down the stadium's atmosphere.
Ismail Ryan scored the only goal of the match in the 39th minute of the game.
Tension between Palestinians and Israelis has been running high since July, when three Jewish extremists killed a Palestinian youth in East Jerusalem in revenge for the murder of three young Israeli students by Palestinians.
Since then, there have been protests, clashes between police and young Palestinians and reciprocal attacks by Palestinians and Israeli settlers in the Arab neighborhoods and the Old City.
Heightening tensions even further between the two communities is a long-standing dispute over access to Jerusalem's Temple Mount, a site considered sacred by both Muslims and Jews.
Palestinian radicals staged three attacks last month, resulting in the death of nine civilians, among them an Ecuadorian woman. The perpetrators were subsequently killed by Israeli Security Forces.