Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu showed the visiting head of the International Federation of Association Football (FIFA) how Hamas terrorists used a soccer stadium in Gaza to camouflage rocket launchers in order to fire rockets into Israel.
Israeli aircraft bombed the soccer field last November after a long-range Fajr-5 missile was launched from the Gaza soccer stadium into Rishon Lezion near Tel Aviv, scoring a direct hit on an apartment building. Netanyahu says the soccer field was also used as a launching point for firing missiles toward Jerusalem.
Israel National News reports that FIFA – which oversees the World Cup soccer tournament – has said it will rebuild the stadium.
Netanyahu also showed FIFA President Sepp Blatter video of a soccer game between two Israeli teams – one made up predominantly of Israeli Arabs – which had to be stopped due to incoming rocket fire. “This is a double war crime. You’re firing on civilians and you’re hiding behind civilians,” the Prime Minister said.
The Jewish Press reports that this is a photo of a missile launcher hidden at the soccer stadium:
It’s unclear if Netanyahu’s presentation made an impression on the top world soccer official. What we do know is that in its summary of Blatter’s visit, the official FIFA website did not convey Netanyahu’s description of how terrorists have utilized a sporting venue from which to commit acts of war. Instead, Blatter took the opportunity to criticize Israel for impeding the free travel of Palestinian soccer players.
The summary of Blatter’s visit on FIFA’s website included this quote from his Jerusalem press conference:
“I explained to him [Netanyahu] the content of the mandate I’ve been given by the FIFA Congress in May. In a nutshell: to ease the movements of teams, referees – but also football equipment – in and out of and within Palestine,” Blatter said.
“I’ve asked for the Prime Minister’s help and he said yes, but with truth and fair-play. He also asked me to help him so that football is not used as a political tool,” Blatter added, but the FIFA website did not provide details from Netanyahu’s presentation showing how the soccer field was used “as a political tool.”
By contrast, the Prime Minister’s Office provided these additional details on the focus of the Netanyahu-Blatter conversation:
Prime Minister Netanyahu also referred to recent media interviews by Palestinian Football Association President Jibril Rajoub in which the latter said that if the Palestinians had an atomic bomb, they would have already used it on Israel and that Israel is the enemy of the Palestinian people.
Prime Minister Netanyahu said Israel was asking that FIFA give it fair play and not allow itself and the sport to be used for the dissemination of mendacious propaganda against Israel.
The Associated Press explains FIFA’s appeal to Israel to improve travel conditions for Palestinians. “Because of Israeli security restrictions, members of the Palestinian national team are often unable to travel between the West Bank and Gaza for matches,” the AP writes.
Palestine Football Association President Rajoub in May called for sanctions against Israel at a FIFA Congress. This week, he called the travel restrictions a “siege on Palestinian sport,” according to the AP.
Israel limits the movement of Palestinians from Gaza due to concerns weapons or terrorists could infiltrate into Israel.
Here is video of Netanyahu’s presentation to FIFA President Blatter, courtesy of the Prime Minister’s Office: