Amid rising security concerns in Israel, UEFA – the governing body for European soccer – declared on Sunday that all scheduled matches in the country will be deferred for the coming weeks. The decision will see rescheduling, with new dates to be unveiled later.
Prominent among the affected matches is the Euro 2024 qualifier set for a showdown between Israel and Switzerland. Additionally, the Euro Under-21 championship games, featuring Israel against rivals Estonia and Germany, are now on hold.
The youth football circuit also took a hit. A mini tournament involving Under-17 squads from countries like Israel, Belgium, Gibraltar, and Wales, slated for October 10-17, faces postponement.
Furthermore, UEFA hinted that the Euro 2024 qualifier, where Israel competes against Kosovo on October 15, might experience delays. An official statement shared that UEFA will “closely monitor the situation” before finalizing any changes.
Conflict Escalates in Israel
The backdrop to these changes is the intensifying conflict in the region. Notably, Saturday witnessed Hamas forces crossing the Gaza border, leading to Israel intensifying its airstrikes. By Sunday, Israel officially declared war against Hamas.
While the future trajectory of this long-standing conflict remains unpredictable, Israel’s Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has braced the nation for a “long and difficult war”. There are suggestions that Israel might aim to seize full control of Gaza – a territory it had withdrawn from in 2005.
The ongoing hostilities have resulted in significant casualties. Official reports state that over 700 Israelis and 400 Palestinians have lost their lives. Distressing visuals, including a devastating attack on a music festival, resulting in 250 casualties, circulate online. Furthermore, Hamas has reportedly captured 100 Israelis, including women and children.