ISRAEL AT WAR - DAY 144

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Israeli flag burned; fireworks, rocks thrown at fans at basketball game in Greece

Hapoel Jerusalem calls incident ‘terrorism,’ says it feared ‘violent pogrom’ against Israelis; police said to stand by, block fans from leaving stadium during attacks

Michael Horovitz is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel

Fans of AEK Athens burn an Israeli flag at a match against Hapoel Jerusalem, in Athens, Greece, April 12, 2023. (Twitter video screenshot: used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)
Fans of AEK Athens burn an Israeli flag at a match against Hapoel Jerusalem, in Athens, Greece, April 12, 2023. (Twitter video screenshot: used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

A basketball game between Hapoel Jerusalem and AEK Athens Wednesday in the Greek capital descended into chaos when local fans burned an Israeli flag, launched fireworks and threw rocks at Israeli fans.

Images showed a banner hung on the stands with the text “The capital of Palestine is Jerusalem,” referencing the historic dispute between Israel and the Palestinians over the holy city.

An official from Hapoel Jerusalem told Channel 12 news that some fans were lightly injured during the incident. The game was paused briefly due to the fireworks, and police did not allow fans to leave the arena.

“There is unprecedented chaos and a failure of security here,” the official said.

Fans said they were intimidated by the officers, who were aggressive toward them. Some of those in attendance told the Kan public broadcaster that police made no effort to arrest the rioters.

“From the start of the game there was a very hostile atmosphere against the Israelis,” Tal Hakim told Kan. He added there were “many Palestinian and Hezbollah flags and attempts to enter our stand and set the Israeli flag on fire.”

“A quarter of an hour after the game started, they began to throw bricks and rocks at us, and even injured some fans. We were confined to a small area to not get hurt. A quarter of an hour after that, they began to launch fireworks at us and burned the clothes of one of the fans.

“Everyone was waiting for the game to end so they could get home in one piece,” he said.

The game, the second in a FIBA ​​Champions League quarterfinal series, ended in a 94-78 AEK victory.

The Israeli team said in a statement that it considered the incident “terrorism in every sense of the word.”

“We explored options to remove Israeli fans at halftime, but Greeks surrounded them and there were fears of a violent pogrom. The team won’t ignore these events and a complaint will be filed to FIBA,” it said in a statement.

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