Hundreds turn out to protest at Northern Ireland game against Israel
ALMOST 200 people pro-Palestinian campaigners gathered in Belfast last night to protest at a soccer match between the Northern Ireland and Israel teams.
The demonstration took place close to Broadway Roundabout at the Rise sculpture an hour before the controversial clash between the two sides at Windsor Park.
A smaller counter-protest by Israeli supporters also took place, with more than 60 police separating the groups.
The Irish Football Association (IFA) has come under intense pressure over the past fortnight to cancel the friendly match, with members of the Palestinian Democratic Forum appealing to the body's chief executive Patrick Nelson.
Almost 6,000 people have also signed a petition in protest.
Earlier this week, an IFA spokesman said it had "no intention" of cancelling the game.
Sinn Féin and Cliftonville football representatives were among those who attended last night's event.
Sinn Féin MLA Sinéad Ennis said the IFA Sinn Féin had "disregarded the rights of Palestinians" by continuing with the fixture.
"Since the outset, we have lobbied the IFA to cancel this match in the same way that the Argentinian national team pulled out of a pre-World Cup game with Israel," she said.
"Whilst the Israeli national team are free to travel and flourish worldwide, the Palestinian national team are blocked from doing so due to disgraceful restrictions placed on citizens in the West Bank and the Israeli created open air prison of Gaza."