JERUSALEM - Three full-time Israeli soccer divisions will resume action a week later than scheduled this weekend following the Jewish state's offensive in the Gaza Strip, the Israel Football Association (IFA) said on Tuesday. Last week, the IFA decided to extend the two-week winter break by a further seven days because of intensive fighting in the Gaza Strip and cross-border militant rocket fire by Islamist militants in the Palestinian territory. The IFA said most fixtures would be held as planned, although some matches involving clubs whose grounds were within range of possible rocket attacks would be moved to safer locations. "This was a very complicated decision which involved considering many needs of clubs and local authorities," Israeli FA chairman Avi Luzon said after announcing the restart. Rockets have landed in Israel over 40km from Gaza, although the numbers have tapered off dramatically in the past few days as Israeli troops and tanks have moved deeper into Gaza City. Hapoel Beersheba from the second division will host Hapoekl Ramat Gan in Tel Aviv, as the city has been hit by a number of long-range rockets over the past two weeks. The IFA added that police could also order the postponement of some matches involving Arab clubs if they identified the possibility of crowd trouble through protests against Israel's offensive. The authority have informed Premier League side Bnei Sakhnin that their ground was not safe enough to host Hakoah Amidar/Ramat Gan and that they would have to find an alternative venue or play in Tel Aviv. Sakhnin have appealed the decision.
14 January 2009
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