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.
EU President says there is no justification for hostile, racist or xenophobic reactions to refugees
The Azerbaijani Defense Ministry claims Armenian troops opened fire on a village along the countries' border, injuring three Azerbaijanis
German Chancellor Merkel, Spainish PM Rajoy have called on EU member states to agree on a fair distribution of refugees
Nearly 100,000 sign document calling for Israeli prime minister's arrest for war crimes
People inspired by prominent author ready to welcome refugees, urge Icelandic government to do more
SDSM's return is part of Brussels-brokered deal between government and opposition
Hungarian PM's visit to Brussels is opportunity to explore in depth what further assistance can be provided to Hungary, says European Commission President
Baku's Court for Serious Crimes sentenced Khadija Ismayilova on corruption charges
Court rules that detention of three Tunisians in 2011 'diminished their human dignity'
Government blames ultra-nationalists for the unrest, saying they detonated a live grenade near the entrance to the parliament building
Some people use situation in Syria, country's fake documents to have easier access into EU
Obama has put forward new plans to anchor the US in the Arctic in order to keep up with Russia's fleet of icebreakers.
Announcement came after around 500 refugees tried to board the latest train to Vienna
Malala Yousafzai's advocacy group will launch an index to highlight gaps in secondary educational opportunities as well as gaps in donor funding
A Russian forwarding base set up in an area near Damascus controlled by Assad, will be used to combat ISIL, with thousands of Russian personnel to arrive in a few weeks.
Cactus grocery store chain decided to stop marketing Israeli fruit, vegetables in order to avoid protests outside its branches