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A soccer match helps "mediating" a cease-fire at one intense front line in South of Gaza Strip
Sunday, May 19, 2002

How a broadcasted popular soccer match brought a temporary cease-fire in the south of Gaza Strip?

As everybody called it, ・the most peaceful night in months.・It was Thursday night of May 16th when the people of Khan Younis Town (200,000) were spared from war and fighting. The reason was the broadcast of an Egyptian Soccer League match between two archrivals Al Zalmalek and AL Ahli. Those two Egyptian teams enjoy a large following among Palestinians especially in Gaza Strip.

Khan Younis and Rafah, the two main cities in south of Gaza, are still witnessing the daily Israeli firing and shelling until this moment. It is certain that every night, heavy machine gun fire aims at residential areas, located next to Jewish settlements. These settlements have been the main cause of friction between Palestinians and Israelis. Young Palestinian resistance fighters (as they are called by the locals) constantly attempt to fight off the illegal settlements. Normally, Israeli response is overwhelming as soldiers unleash tanks shells, heavy machine gun fire and sometimes missiles by Apache helicopters on homes and civilians as a collective punishment.

The match started on Thursday night at 8:30PM when many people, from the war-torn town, went home early to watch the game. The streets of Khan Younis were almost deserted. The two Egyptian teams have a long history of rivalry like that of the intensity generated between Manchester United and Liverpool in the English Premier League.

That night, the young fighters decided to rest the guns for a short while to watch their favorite teams and players. Many of those hardened young men love to play soccer, as it is the most popular game among Palestinians. Residents of the refugee camp found themselves totally absorbed into the game as well as almost every fighter. During the game the streets were quite and of course the front line facing the settlements were even guiter.

Apparently, the soccer match was very entertaining. Fans were happy about the high level of skills and play in the game. Of course, there is always a winner and a loser. Al Zamalek team lost badly to its archival Al Ahli. And soon enough, many started commenting and talking passionately about the outcome and the game.

One Palestinian middle age father said, ・I have not seen the town of Khan Younis calm like this for months. It is strange not to hear the sound of shelling and firing coming from the settlements.・

A young man added,・our Palestinian fighters are tough but I guess they needed a break. I am sure they enjoyed watching the game tonight. They all play soccer and love it. It is a good chance for them to relax and share a good time with friends, even it is a short lived one.・

Since last Thursday night, unfortunately, fighting has returned to the town. The young fighters are determined to free their town from the grip and the onslaught of the illegal settlement violence and expansion. To many Palestinians, fighting the settlements and occupation is a form of national liberation.

One small reminder. A much- awaited -match is scheduled to be on air tomorrow night, Monday May 20th. It is a game where the result will decide the champions of the Egyptian league for year 2002 as the Al ahli meets with Al Ismaili Team.

And it is most likely that the town of Khan Younis will enjoy another peaceful night again.

Khan Younis, Gaza Strip,

May 19th. 2002

Reported by: B. Samed.


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