Baghdad airport suspends flights due to bad weather, agency reports

RAMALLAH: Israel is considering banning its citizens from traveling to Qatar in November to watch World Cup matches over security concerns, according to Israeli security sources. Nearly 15,000 Israelis have bought tickets for the World Cup, and sports tourism agencies estimate that between 25,000 and 30,000 Israelis will travel to Qatar. However, the Israeli National Security Council will meet next week to discuss issuing an advisory calling on the Israelis to avoid traveling to Qatar. Israeli press reports said on Tuesday that there are “increasing” Israeli security concerns about the possibility of Israelis being subjected to “harm” in Qatar. Israel cannot make security arrangements as there are no diplomatic ties between Doha and Tel Aviv. Israel describes Qatari policies as “supportive” of Hamas and expects “many Iranians” at the World Cup matches. The Israel Today newspaper quoted an Israeli source concerned with the matter, as saying: “This constitutes not a simple security challenge. It requires the cooperation of the authorities in Qatar, which is not guaranteed; this is a first-class challenge. After security discussions, we will know if this can be done and how. If there is no agreement over Israeli security considerations, there may be recommendations to avoid traveling to Qatar for objective reasons.” The report said that the Anti-Terrorism Authority recommends avoiding non-essential travel to Qatar, claiming that “in light of the Qatari street’s hostility toward Israel and the presence of terrorist elements in Qatar, there is a danger to the safety of Israeli citizens who visit or stay in Qatar.” According to the report, the geographical proximity between Iran and Qatar and the possibility that Iran will send hundreds of thousands of its citizens to watch the World Cup poses a threat to Israelis staying in areas close to “many hostile elements.” Meanwhile, thousands of Israelis bear a second, foreign passport, besides their Israeli one to use it to travel to Qatar and watch some of their preferable matches there without being identified as Israeli citizens. The Israeli national team did not qualify for the World Cup, and the last time it participated was in 1970 in Mexico. Ahmed Owaisat, reporter and sports expert for Makan, the official Israel Radio station in Arabic, told Arab News that large Israeli sports media teams intend to go to Qatar for coverage. The primary television channel KAN and Makan, and the official Israeli radio, will broadcast exclusively all World Cup matches to the Israeli audience. Owaisat added that thousands of Israeli football fans intend to go to Doha and stay there until the end of the competition. “Even if a decision is taken to prevent them from going to Qatar — and I rule out such a decision — this will not prevent them and they will travel using foreign passports, as most Israeli citizens have other nationalities and speak English fluently and there is no need to speak Hebrew, so it will be difficult to identify them.” Owaisat says that many Israelis are interested in going directly as Israelis to Qatar, taking advantage of the fact that FIFA laws allow them to go with their passports even if there are no diplomatic relations between their country and the host country. He said if anti-Israel demonstrations occur in Qatar before the World Cup, that might result in a reduced number of Israelis being allowed to go to Qatar. The Israeli National Security and Counter-Terrorism Council has warned Israelis not to go to the Sinai Peninsula in Egypt for fear of being targeted by extremist groups, but  hundreds of Israelis still go. A former senior Israeli security official told Arab News: “I think in the end, the Israeli security authorities will not prevent Israeli citizens who want to attend the World Cup from going to Qatar, and the most they can do is advise and warn them not to go, nothing more.” Israeli political expert and analyst Yoni Ben Menachem told Arab News: “I think the security authorities are right about their fears, but hundreds of Israelis will attend the World Cup in Qatar despite all these fears and warnings and any measures Israel might take.” He said despite security warnings for the Israelis against going to Sinai, there are currently 15,000 Israelis spending the Jewish Passover holiday there.

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