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The Israeli and Palestinian football associations traded accusations Wednesday over the cancellation of a World Cup warm-up match between the Jewish state and Argentina in the disputed city of Jerusalem.
Israel accused the Palestinians of “football terror”, saying their threats saw Barcelona superstar Lionel Messi and his team abandon what would have been Argentina’s final friendly match ahead of the World Cup.
The Palestinians rejected the allegation, saying the Argentinians pulled out of the match as they realised Israel was using their presence for political gain.
The encounter was called off on Tuesday after a campaign by the Palestinians following its relocation to Jerusalem.
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“We are confronting a football terror from the Palestinian Football Association and its president (Jibril Rajoub),” said Rotem Kamer of the Israel Football Association.
He accused them of threatening players and their families, without providing any evidence.
“We are seeing it as crossing a red line and we cannot accept it,” Kamer said, adding an official complaint would be sent to world football’s governing body FIFA.
The sold-out game in Jerusalem was hotly opposed by Palestinians, who claim the eastern part of the city, occupied and later annexed by Israel, as the capital of their future state.
It had originally been scheduled to take place the northern Israeli city of Haifa but was moved after pressure from Israel’s hardline sports minister, Miri Regev.
Palestinians were already angered by US President Donald Trump’s transfer of the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem in May, which sparked protests in Gaza in which dozens of Palestinians were killed.
Israel considers Jerusalem its “indivisible” capital.
Ahead of the game Rajoub had urged Messi not to take part and called on fans to burn shirts bearing his name if he did.
Speaking on Wednesday, he thanked the Argentinians for the cancellation, saying he hopes they will win the World Cup.
“I think what happened yesterday is a red card from everybody to the Israelis to (get them to) understand that they (only) have a right to organise, or play football within their internationally recognised borders,” he said in English, pointing out the final status of Jerusalem is supposed to be the subject of negotiations between the parties.
Rajoub laughed off Israeli threats of action, denying there was any intimidation.
“The Argentinian Football Association cancelled the agreement it signed with the Israelis because it reached the conclusion that this match is a political one.”
Israeli media said that late Tuesday Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called Argentine President Mauricio Macri, with whom he has good relations, in an effort to save the match but that Macri had said he was unable to intervene.
Netanyahu is currently visiting Europe and his office could not immediately confirm the reports.
Israeli daily Yisrael Hayom, considered close to Netanyahu, expressed ire at Argentina with its front-page headline: “They surrendered to terrorism: The game against Argentina has been cancelled.”
Argentina players ‘not willing’
Argentine Foreign Minister Jorge Faurie said before confirmation of the game’s cancellation that he believed his country’s players had been reluctant to travel to Israel for the match.
“As far as I know, the players of the national team were not willing to play the game,” Faurie said.
The Argentina squad practised on Wednesday morning at FC Barcelona’s training ground, just a few hours after the friendly match was called off.
“Argentina is seven days from the World Cup. We want to focus on what is really important and which is before us,” a spokesman for the country’s football federation told AFP in Barcelona, where the national team has been training ahead of the start of the tournament in Russia on June 14.
The status of Jerusalem, always a key sticking point in the Israeli-Palestinian dispute, surged back to centre-stage when Trump tore up decades of US policy to recognise it as Israel’s capital in December.
The United States shifted its Israeli embassy to Jerusalem in May on the 70th anniversary of the creation of Israel, in a move met with condemnation from the Palestinians and many of Washington’s international allies.
At the same time, Israel has faced fierce criticism over its use of lethal force against Palestinian protesters on the Gaza Strip border with the Jewish state.
Israeli troops have killed at least 125 Gazans since March 30, during protests and clashes along the border over the return of Palestinians to land they fled or were expelled from during the 1948 war surrounding Israel’s creation.
The press in Argentina and Israel reported that the Argentine Football Association was supposed to receive a payment of between two and three million dollars if Messi played.
Argentina coach Jorge Sampaoli last week aired misgivings about having his players make the trip to Israel, noting he preferred to remain in Barcelona.
“From a sporting point of view, I would have preferred to play in Barcelona,” Sampaoli said.
Messi is looking to inspire Argentina to victory at the World Cup, having lost in the final four years ago.
Israel has not qualified for the tournament.
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U.S to withdraw citizenship from Hoda Muthana
A federal judge has ruled that a U.S.-born woman who traveled to Syria and joined ISIS is not an American citizen, even though the State Department had issued her a passport when she was a child and later renewed it.
Hoda Muthana, 25, was a student at the University of Alabama at Birmingham when she traveled to Syria. She is currently being held at a detention camp in northern Syria with her young son.
In February, the State Department declared that Muthana “is not a U.S. citizen and will not be admitted into the United States.” The statement from Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that “she does not have any legal basis, no valid U.S. passport, no right to a passport, nor any visa to travel to the United States.”
The next day, her father, Ahmed Ali Muthana, filed a federal lawsuit.
Hoda Muthana’s citizenship was in dispute because her father was living in the U.S. and working as a diplomat for his home country, Yemen, prior to her birth. For families of diplomats, citizenship isn’t automatically conferred on babies born in the U.S. because of diplomatic immunity.
The central question in this case was when Ahmed Ali Muthana’s diplomatic immunity ended.
Yemen’s government dismissed him as a diplomat in June 1994, several months before his daughter was born. “We all agree that his duties had ended and he was no longer a diplomat” when Muthana was born, said Christina Jump, a lawyer from the Constitutional Law Center for Muslims in America who is representing the family. “The Department of State is now trying to continue that immunity beyond that timeframe.”
State Department officials say the U.S. Mission to the United Nations was officially notified that Ahmed Ali Muthana was terminated in February 1995, several months after his daughter’s birth. They say the date when the U.S. received notice about Muthana is what matters in determining diplomatic immunity, rather than when his duties ended.
They say that’s the reason why, in 2016, they declared his daughter’s passport was issued in error and revoked it.
The judge sided with the Trump administration in a ruling from the bench on Thursday, according to Jump.
U.S. District Judge Reggie B. Walton told the court in Washington, D.C., that “he is bound by the statement of the Department of State as to when it received notice of Mr. Muthana’s termination of his position as a diplomat. … And that he did not have the flexibility to rule contrary to it,” Jump told NPR.
Walton has not yet issued a written ruling. Jump said that they are waiting to read it but that they will likely appeal.
The family says in court documents that it was never told by the State Department that there was any doubt about Hoda Muthana’s citizenship. If she had been denied a U.S. passport when she was young, the family would have logically gone through the steps of applying for U.S. citizenship on her behalf, their lawyer stated.
The judge told the court Thursday that his office had received about 6,000 messages from people about this case, Jump said. “A few of them in favor of Hoda and many of them threatening, which he has needed to refer to the Marshal’s office.”
Ahmed Ali Muthana asked the court whether he was legally able to send his daughter money or other forms of support such as jackets while she is detained in Syria. According to Jump, the judge refused to answer that question.
“He just simply said it would be inappropriate, in his mind, for him to issue a determination one way or another on the legality of that, since Mr. Muthana had not tried yet and sought permission before doing so,” Jump
Hoda Muthana was initially detained by Kurdish forces in a camp called al-Hol and was later moved to al-Roj camp, “in large part because she has clearly and repeatedly denounced ISIS,” according to Jump. She received threats, “and we believe that she continues to be in danger now.”
“I hope they excuse me because of how young and ignorant I was, really. And I can tell them that now I’ve changed,” Muthana told ABC News earlier this year. “And now I’m a mother. And now I have none of the ideology. And hopefully everyone will see it when I get back.
Muthana married an Australian ISIS fighter shortly after she arrived in Syria, according to court documents After that man died, she married a Tunisian man and they had a son. Her second husband also died. In 2018, as ISIS was rapidly losing territory, Muthana fled and was captured by the Kurdish forces.
Jump says Muthana has difficulty finding ways to communicate with her father. “It’s when she can borrow someone else’s phone. It’s not predictable, and it’s certainly not anything that can be scheduled,” Jump says. “It’s definitely not anything that can be done with any confidentiality attached.”
Jump says Muthana has never had any other citizenship. She has never been to Yemen, and it might not be possible for her to obtain Yemeni citizenship.
What will happen to Muthana and her child isn’t clear. Nathan Sales, the State Department’s acting under secretary for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights, said the department is still reviewing the ruling.
“Give us some time. We just got the opinion. We’ll have a considered reaction to it once we have a chance to digest,” he told reporters at a press briefing Thursday.
It’s worth noting that a group of eight U.S. citizens was repatriated back to the U.S. from Syria in June. They are thought to be the wives and children of ISIS fighters. Separately, a woman named Samantha Sally says she was dragged to Syria by her husband and has now returned to the U.S.
AFCON 2021: Rohr task Eagles to do more.
Super Eagles started their AFCON 2021 qualifier Campaign with a win against Benin on tuesday at Uyo.
The Super Eagle coach Gernot Rohr has laud his team for their effort to ensure a victory after narrowly coming from behind to win 2-1 victory against Benin.
Nigeria is currently sitting first in group L, after Lesotho and Sierra Leone played out a 1-1 draw at the Siaka Stevens Stadium.
Goals from Lille tailsman Victor Osimhen and Samuel Kalu sealed the victory for the eagles.
Rohr believes his team has the potential to win all their matches as they visit the Crocodiles of Lesotho on sunday to continue their impressive start.
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