No violence at Sweden-Israel handball game

Some 150 pro-Palestinian protesters and some 60 pro-Israel protestors demonstrated peacefully on the sidelines of a Sweden-Israel handball match in southeastern Sweden Sunday, police said.

No violence at Sweden-Israel handball game

Police spokesman Mats Trulsson in the city of Karlskrona said one pro-Palestinian demonstrator had been taken into custody before the match but was set to be released shortly.

Other than that, “our evaluation is that the demonstrations went exactly according to the plans that led to their authorisation,” he told AFP.

Police and Swedish intelligence had been preparing for Sunday’s game, a qualifier for the European handball championship, after protesters clashed with police in March 2009 on the sidelines of an Israel-Sweden Davis Cup tennis tie in the southern city of Malmö.

Malmö, which is home to a large Muslim community, had ordered that the controversial match be played behind closed doors for fear of violence in the arena.

The protestors failed to distract Sweden’s handball team, which dispatched Israel 28-17.

Following the match, Sweden’s Kim Ekdahl Du Rietz – who netted nine goals during the game – remained cautious about commenting on the protests.

“No, it’s nothing that we…eh, I’m not going to comment on that,” he told the TT news agency.

As Sweden had already secured a place in the next round of the 2012 European Men’s Handball Championships, the match against Israel was of little importance beyond possibly improving Sweden’s placement in seeding for the tournament, which will be played in Serbia in January 2012.

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Israel intercepts Swedish Gaza-bound activist boat

The Israeli navy intercepted a Swedish-flagged activist boat bent on breaching its more than decade-long blockade of Gaza, the second in less than a week, the military said on Saturday.

Israel intercepts Swedish Gaza-bound activist boat
Photo: TT

“The ship was monitored and was intercepted in accordance with international law,” the military said in a statement, before the vessel, named Freedom for Gaza and carrying 12 people, was taken to the Israeli port of Ashdod.

“The (military) clarified to the ship’s passengers that they are violating the legal naval blockade and that any humanitarian merchandise can be transferred to Gaza through the Port of Ashdod,” the statement said.

The people on board were taken for “further inquiry.”

The organisers of the flotilla said the boat, which was carrying medical supplies, was intercepted in international waters.

“The demands of Ship to Gaza are that the ship with its crew and cargo will be returned to the site of the boarding, and that they will be allowed to go in peace through international and Palestinian waters in accordance to international law,” they said in a statement.

“This is a demand that the eleven years-long illegal and destructive blockade on Gaza will be lifted at last.”

Freedom was the second boat of the “Freedom Flotilla” to be intercepted en route to “break the blockade” on Gaza, organisers said.

Four boats left from Scandinavia in mid-May and stopped in some 28 ports along the way, with two remaining behind after a recent stop in the Italian port of Palermo.

On Sunday, the Israeli navy intercepted a Norwegian-flagged activist boat that was part of the flotilla.

Israel has fought three wars with Palestinian militants in Gaza since 2008 and says the blockade is necessary to keep them from obtaining weapons or materials that could be used for military purposes.

UN officials have called for the blockade to be lifted, citing deteriorating humanitarian conditions in the Palestinian enclave run by Islamist movement Hamas where 80 percent of the two million population are dependent on aid.