Israel Soccer Association Delays Season Due to Rockets
The Israel Football Association (IFA) on Thursday postponed the start of the new soccer premier league season scheduled for this weekend, due to the danger posed by Hamas terrorists firing rockets on Israeli civilian centers.
"We have cancelled all matches following instructions from the civil defense authority," an IFA official told AFP, without specifying a new date for the season to begin. The 2014-2015 first division season had been due to begin on Saturday.
Several recent pre-season friendlies planned in southern Israel, which has been hardest hit by terrorist rockets, were also cancelled for security reasons.
Hamas spokesperson Sami Abu Zuhri lost no time Thursday in bragging about the postponement of the soccer season.
"The decision to delay the opening of the Israeli soccer season is proof of (Prime Minister Binyamin) Netanyahu's failure to provide security to Israelis, and the proof for that is that the resistance (Hamas) controls their lives; therefore the policy of assassinations has no benefit," claimed Abu Zuhri.
The reference to assassinations comes after Israel targeted Hamas "military branch" Al-Qassam Brigades chief Mohammed Deif on Tuesday night. Israeli officials told Fox News Deif's life was ended, while Hamas claimed the arch-terrorist survived. Then on Thursday morning, the IDF took out three other senior Al-Qassam Brigades commanders in a pre-dawn strike.
IFA's postponement comes after the civil defense authorities banned some events including weddings and concerts since the start of Operation Protective Edge on July 8, citing security concerns.
The concerns are well-founded; on Wednesday a spokesperson for Hamas's "military wing," the Al-Qassam Brigades, threatened to attack "major public gatherings for the enemy," which would include sporting events.
It remains to be seen whether the postponement might also affect plans for the Israeli national team to host Belgium in its first Euro 2016 qualifier on September 9.
Even aside from the danger of a rocket hitting a soccer stadium, a great threat is presented by the rockets in that they force Israelis to rush to find shelter in periods of time that, in the locations closest to Gaza, are shorter than 15 seconds. Thousands of fans forced to scurry for shelter could find themselves in a stampede.
That danger was tragically illustrated on Thursday night, when a man in his forties in Be'er Sheva was seriously injured, after being hit by a car while running for shelter during a five-rocket salvo.