Amid heightened security, Israel defeats Albania

Israel's national soccer team makes a strong showing in defeating Albania’s national team 3-0. Over 2,000 officers protected the game.

Neri Weiss and Ben Ariel ,

Israel's Eran Zahavi
Israel's Eran Zahavi
Flash 90

Israel's national soccer team on Saturday night defeated Albania’s national team by a score of 3-0, in a game that was tense before it even began, after an ISIS-affiliated terror cell was arrested on suspicions of planning a terror attack against the Israeli team and their professional staff.

Over 2,000 Albanian police were deployed to protect the game, which was originally supposed to be played in the northern town of Shkodra, but was moved to Elbasan, some 45 kilometers (28 miles) from the capital Tirana, after the terrorist cell was nabbed.

Eran Zahavi, Dan Einbinder and Eliran Atar all scored goals for Israel, which was unfazed by the terror threat and put together one of its best showings.

Security checkpoints were set up in streets around the stadium ahead of the match with concrete blocks, while police sharpshooters took up position and a helicopter was due to help oversee the operation, according to the AFP news agency.

Police announced that a tunnel between Tirana and Elbasan would be closed four hours before the evening match.

"Supporters have to report at the entrance at least four hours before the match and they will be subject to strict checks," said a police statement.

Amid the tension, Albanian anti-terrorist forces arrested a former fighter for the so-called Islamic State group in Guras in the east of the country, said an interior ministry spokesman.

The spokesman did not say whether the man, named as Ervin Düka, 29, who had returned from Syria after being injured, was suspected of being part of the dismantled alleged terror cell.

Police found weapons, ammunition and explosives at his home, the spokesman said, according to AFP.

Four members of the dismantled cell were arrested in Albania, suspected notably of plotting to attack the match. One of them Medat Hasani, is also a former ISIS fighter, sources close to the inquiry told the news agency.

The three others are a self-proclaimed imam, a hairdresser and a doctor, according to Albanian media reports.