Last Updated: Tue Nov 02, 2010 17:58 pm (KSA) 14:58 pm (GMT)

Protests derail Turkish-Israeli basketball game

Turkish basketball fans chanting "Israel, killers" on Tuesday ruined the start of a Eurocup basketball game between a Turkish team and a visiting Israeli team, prompting riot police to intervene.

"Israeli murderers, get out of Palestine," "Allah-u Akhbar" (God is great), the protestors chanted as the teams - Israel's Bnei Hasharon and Turkey's Turk Telekom - initially came out for the match in the Ataturk Sports Arena.

The Israelis returned to their locker room after a group of protestors, some carrying Palestinian flags and wearing the koffeyah - the traditional checkered Arab scarf - hurled coins and lighters at them and attempted to invade the pitch, prompting police to use truncheons to stop them.

 After such a trying ordeal, there was simply no point in playing. The players were just concerned for their safety. We were also given instructions by the Israeli embassy staff, who were monitoring the situation, not to play, 
Bnei Hasharon chairman Eldad Akunis Akunis

Bnei Hasharon captain Meir Tapiro said the players were very frightened. "They threw shoes, cigarette lighters, water bottles. We were holed up in the dressing room with police protection," Tapiro told Israeli Channel 5 television.

The spectators were then asked to empty the hall, but several dozen people refused to leave and their exit was secured only with a false announcement that the match had been cancelled.

The referees then called the two teams back to start the game, but the Israeli side did not show up.

Turk Telecom, leaders in Group D, were awarded technical victory, with Bnei Hasharon, stuck at the bottom, considered to have forfeited the game by not fielding a team.

Bnei Hasharon chairman Eldad Akunis Akunis said the decision was scandalous.

"After such a trying ordeal, there was simply no point in playing. The players were just concerned for their safety. We were also given instructions by the Israeli embassy staff, who were monitoring the situation, not to play," said Akunis.

Hundreds of protestors gathered also outside the building, shouting anti-Israeli slogans and waving Palestinian flags. Most of them were not allowed in.

About 1,000 policemen were on duty for the match, media reports said.

Turkey, a predominantly Muslim country, has good ties with Israel but its bloody offensive in the Gaza Strip since Dec. 27 has triggered almost daily demonstrations in Turkey, where the Palestinian cause enjoys widespread support even though the country is Israel's main regional ally.

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