Haifa police say assault on French tourists maybe sparked by soccer rivalry
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Haifa police say assault on French tourists maybe sparked by soccer rivalry

Altercation comes on heels of tense Maccabi-Strasbourg game where French officials tried to ban Israeli flags from stadium; teams to meet Thursday evening in northern city

Strasbourg's supporters cheer for their team during the UEFA Europa League preliminary round football match on July 25, 2019. (PATRICK HERTZOG / AFP)
Strasbourg's supporters cheer for their team during the UEFA Europa League preliminary round football match on July 25, 2019. (PATRICK HERTZOG / AFP)

Police in Haifa on Thursday said they were investigating if the assault of two French tourists in Haifa a day earlier was connected to a growing rivalry between Israeli and French soccer teams.

According to the Kan public broadcaster, the tourists were wearing Strasbourg jerseys when a group of men attacked them in Haifa on Wednesday night. They sustained light injuries and were released from the hospital after several hours.

Police said they believe the assailants were Maccabi Haifa fans, and the fight broke out over soccer rivalries.

“The incident is under investigation, and until we positively identify everyone involved, we won’t know if it’s linked to fan rivalry,” police said in a statement.

Illustrative: Fans of the Maccabi Haifa soccer team cheer during a game at the Teddy stadium in Jerusalem, May 24, 2016. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Last week, three Maccabi fans got into a violent altercation with Strasbourg fans ahead of a tense home game in the French city.

Initially, Strasbourg police banned Israeli fans from flying their national flag in the stadium during the game last Friday citing the risk of anti-Semitic incidents, but the directive was lifted following vociferous criticism from Israel.

That Europa League game ended without incident, with a 3-1 loss for Maccabi Haifa.

The two teams will face off again in the second round of the Europa League on Thursday night at Haifa’s Sammy Ofer Stadium.

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