World Bulletin / News Desk
Palestinians freed from Israeli jails held their own version of the Barcelona-Real Madrid soccer match on Sunday to protest at the presence of a former captive Israeli soldier at the actual fixture.
The five-a-side kick-about in Gaza comprised mostly of ex-prisoners protesting at Gilad Shalit's presence in Barcelona. He was abducted by Palestinians in a cross-border raid in 2006 and they held him for over five years.
Wearing the shirts of the two Spanish giant clubs, the Palestinians called on hosts Barcelona to deny Shalit access to Sunday night's match. They thought he had been invited by the club, although Barcelona has denied this.
"Soccer is a sport that carries the message of freedom and love but we are against it when an (Israeli) soldier is invited, because it equates between the victim and the aggressor," said Yasser Saleh, who spent 17 years in Israeli jails.
Barcelona said they had accepted Shalit's request to attend Sunday's clash between two of the world's most successful outfits. But when Palestinians thought the club had initiated the invitation, they vowed to protest.
To redress the balance, Barcelona invited Mahmoud Sarsak, a former Palestinian soccer player who was released from an Israeli jail in July where he was held for three years without charge, Palestinian sports supremo Jibril Rajoub, and another representative.
"The club did not invite Mr. Shalit to the game, but accepted a request to watch a match during his visit to Barcelona ... In the same manner ... the club has also accepted the Palestinian embassy's request to extend three invitations to three Palestinian delegates," the club said on its website.
Sarsak said he would not share the same stadium with Shalit. It was not immediately clear whether the other two attended.
Barcelona and Real Madrid have a huge following among Gaza's 1.6 million population.
In a small protest in front of the Spanish consulate in East Jerusalem, a group of some 30 demonstrators held up placards with the club's insignia daubed in red paint signifying blood, and at least one trampled on a Barcelona shirt.
'Macedonia should be ready to stop the entrance of the refugees on its border,' Austrian FM says
Diplomatic sources suggest that EU foreign ministers meeting Monday in Brussels are now expected to approve ending these sanctions completely
According to Czech president, the only way to solve the ongoing refugee crisis is to fall back upon deportation
Tunisian government is preparing to consequences of potential foreign military intervention in the southeastern neighbor
Many refugees who have come to the Nordic country are now having second thoughts
Manuel Valls believes German chancellor's policy is 'unsustainable in long-term'
Crimea has been swept by a fresh wave of home raids and arrests against Crimean Tatars
French finance minister says monetary union is to be deepened and nobody, meaning UK, can oppose it
Berlin 'puts Russia first under the obligation' to implement nationwide cessation of hostilities in Syria
Greece has one month to 'establish an action plan to remedy the deficiencies... (and) within three months of the same date, it shall report on the implementation'
'Our camp at Kidal was attacked by terrorists early Friday morning. We fought back but two peacekeepers were killed and 30 others injured,' a source says
About 800 farmers from Crete clashed with police guarding the entrance to the Agriculture Ministry
‘We feel that sets back the overall effort, what we're trying to achieve on the ground,’ says State Dept.
A Russian delegation headed by deputy PM visits Baghdad hoping to cultivate Iraq market for fighter jets and military hardware
Lawmakers will begin to meet on Tuesday to create zones where FARC members will be able to surrender their arms.
War of words erupt after Russia claims US struck Aleppo