Palestinian Players to Be Punished for Participating in Peace Match'

The Palestinian Football Association (FA) plans to punish players under its jurisdiction for participating with Israelis in last week's "Peace Match" in Barcelona, an official said yesterday.

A team of Israeli and Palestinian players lost 2-1 to Barcelona.

"The Palestinian FA will form a committee to investigate the players who participated in the match... everyone involved will be punished," senior Palestinian FA official Jamal Zaqout said.

"We act in accordance with the attitude of our people who are against normalization [of relations with Israel] before the end of the occupation," Zaqout said.

Fifteen Israelis, including several internationals, and 12 Palestinians from the West Bank teamed up for the match, which was sponsored by Shimon Peres' Center for Peace foundation.

Zaqout, who is based in the Gaza Strip, said the five West Bank players who competed, including national team member Khaldon Fahd, would be subject to the investigation.

The official Palestinian national team and its Israeli Arab coach Azmi Nassar lost to Iraq and Saudi Arabia at a tournament in Qatar at the time of last week's match.

A Peres Center spokeswoman said the Palestinian FA's reaction was "irresponsible and annoying."

"The Peres Center together with its Palestinian partner, the Abu Sukar Center, received the blessing of [Palestinian Authority Chairman] Mahmoud Abbas and [senior security adviser] Jibril Rajoub for the match," Michal Eldar said. "The match in Barcelona was an unprecedented event in which we managed to convey to the world the message of peace and cooperation between Israelis and Palestinians," she added.

An Israel Football Association spokesman said it had approved its players' participation.

Israel's FA has been generally supportive of its Palestinian counterpart, which became a full FIFA member in 1998.