Police to boost forces in south for Morocco-France World Cup game amid riot fears

Law enforcement launches operation ‘Own Goal’ focused largely on Arab towns, which saw looting after Morocco’s quarter-final win along with accusations of excessive force by cops

Israel Police take to the streets in East Jerusalem as Palestinians celebrate Morocco's World Cup victory on December 10, 2022. (Screen capture/Twitter)
Israel Police take to the streets in East Jerusalem as Palestinians celebrate Morocco's World Cup victory on December 10, 2022. (Screen capture/Twitter)

Police reinforcements are to be deployed to communities in the south amid fears that rioting might take place following Morocco’s World Cup semi-final match against France on Wednesday night.

After Morocco’s stunning quarterfinals victory over Portugal on Saturday, thousands of mainly Arab citizens took to the streets to celebrate, with some of the scenes deteriorating into riots in the Negev towns of Rahat, Lakia and Tel Sheva.

Six people were arrested for allegedly firing weapons into the air and one teenager in Tel Sheva was booked for throwing a rock at a police car.

In East Jerusalem, Palestinian residents accused police of using excessive force to quash their celebration of Morocco’s victory, with footage showing officers on horses charging at Palestinians. Police did not respond to requests for an explanation of the conduct.

Following Saturday’s match, police held several discussions to determine how best to prepare for Wednesday’s match, ultimately deciding to launch Operation Own Goal, which will see an increased law enforcement presence in the south.

Law enforcement agencies around the world are also preparing for the possibility of riots following the France-Morocco match.

In Brussels, fans watched Saturday’s game anxiously in cafes or outside in the December cold — and erupted in cries of joy as Morocco sealed its victory. Amid largely peaceful celebrations, police said 59 people were briefly detained and one arrested after minor skirmishes.

Paris saw a similar outpouring of exuberance on the Champs-Elysees. On the sidelines, riot police fired tear gas as some revelers threw objects, according to a police spokesperson.

But the celebrations were mainly joyful. In Tunisia, supporters of the rival North African team danced and chanted slogans hailing Morocco’s Atlas Lions.

Over a million Moroccans are believed to live in France and security forces will be on alert during the match Wednesday.

For Wednesday night, French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin told parliament that 5,000 police and security forces would be deployed in the Paris region, mainly on the iconic Champs-Elysees avenue, and a further 5,000 throughout the rest of France.

Agencies contributed to this report

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