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Israeli forces break up Palestinian family football tournament in East Jerusalem

183 Palestinian families couldn't compete after Israeli police broke up this year's football tournament [AFP/Getty]

Date of publication: 20 August, 2019

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More than 180 families were set to compete in this year's tournament but as they gathered to start, Israeli forces moved in and ordered the crowd to disperse.

Israeli forces on Sunday broke up a football tournament organised by Palestinian families in Jerusalem's old city. 

Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan ordered for the tournament to be cancelled because it was organised by the Palestinian Authority (PA), Haaretz reported, despite denials by the organisers.

"This is a social activity for the benefit of the Old City residents; it's no shame to hold such activities, especially when the municipality doesn’t promote activities for East Jerusalem residents," attorney Mohannad Gbara, who represents Burj al-Luqluq Society, the organisers of the tournament, told Haaretz.

The tournament, which has been held for several years running, sees families put together teams of young people to compete against each other. 

183 families were set to compete in this year's tournament, but as competitors and onlookers gathered to kick off, Israeli forces moved in and ordered the crowd to disperse, Haaretz reported.

Israeli police came armed with a signed order by Erdan, reading: "The event will be held on behalf of and/or is sponsored and funded by the Palestinian Authority."

Burj al-Luqluq Society maintain they have no connection to the PA and that Palestinian businessman Munir al-Kaloti donated the money for the tournament.

Cultural events, such as press conferences, book launches and festivals, have often been disbanded in Jerusalem on the alleged basis they are organised by the PA - which, under the Oslo accords, is barred for conducting activities in East Jerusalem.

"I think that pretty soon Minister Erdan will forbid the sale of Jerusalem sesame pretzels because they have Palestinian markings; they'll issue closure orders against the pretzel wagons," said Gbara.

The office of Public Security Minister Erdan told Haaretz: "We're talking about scofflaws who lie and blame the agency that enforces the law when they know full well that the Palestinian Authority is involved in the event that Minister Erdan ordered halted."

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"Minister Erdan has taken and will continue to take a tough stance against the holding of events funded by or sponsored by the PA and its agencies in the Israeli capital. Every order signed by the minister is backed by police intelligence information that proves PA involvement in the event, which is also checked by legal counsel."

Israel occupied the West Bank and east Jerusalem in the 1967 Six-Day War. It later annexed east Jerusalem in a move never recognised by the international community.

Israel sees the entire city as its capital, while the Palestinians view the eastern sector as the capital of a future state of their own.

In 2017, United States President Donald Trump recognised Jerusalem as Israel's capital and moved the US embassy to the city, a move that was hailed by Israel but sparked anger across the world.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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