Spain: FC Barcelona risk boycott over Shalit invitation

Hamas, West Bank youth protest

28 September, 18:18

(ANSAmed) - MADRID, SEPTEMBER 28 - Spanish football giants Barcelona face a possible boycott from Palestinian fans angered that Israeli sportswriter Gilad Shalit, a former Hamas hostage, will be attending a big match against Real Madrid next month. A Hamas radio station called on Palestinians to stop supoorting the club, which is popular with youth people in the Gaza Strip. Gaza youngsters expressed their outrage on social media, calling for their team not to let the former Israeli soldier come to the game.

The Spanish club on Friday confirmed that 26-year-old Shalit, who spent five years in captivity before being released in October 2011 as part of a prisoner exchange deal, will be at Camp Nou for the Clasico against Real Madrid on October 7.

Barcelona did not invite Shalit, but accepted a request from the young reporter, who is a sports columnist for Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth, to attend the game, the club said in a statement.

Former Israeli welfare minister and Labor Party MP Itzhak Herzog, solicited the invitation on Shalit's behalf, Yedioth Ahronoth reported.

A former Israeli defense forces soldier, Shalit was abducted by Hamas militants in June 2006. He was held in a secret location for over five years, until his release in October 2011 in exchange for more than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners held in Israel.

''Inviting Shalit is a new attempt to cover up Zionist crimes, using sport as a pretext,'' the Hamas-linked Palestinian Prisoners' Club said in a statement on Friday. ''How can such a respected club, that defends humanism and multiculturalism, invite a criminal and a murderer like Shalit, and show him honor and respect?'' The Hamas prime minister of Gaza, Ismail Haniyeh, also condemned Barcelona in a statement on Friday and called on the club not to let Shalit attend the match. Barcelona has in the past invited young former Palestinian detainees to its matches. (ANSAmed).

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