12:15 GMT08 July 2020
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    Hours before a Maccabi Haifa-RC Strasbourg Alsace match in France and following a controversial flag ban, a group of Israeli nationals were reportedly beaten and had chairs thrown at them by rival soccer fans.

    Hebrew-language daily newspaper Yisrael Hayom says three Israeli soccer fans sustained minor injuries following an abrupt assault carried out by a group of French locals prior to the Europa League match Thursday night.

    One victim, who requested anonymity, told the outlet that the group of Strasbourg fans approached them and demanded to see their social media activity and passports.

    “Then they shouted that we were Maccabi Haifa. We told them we were just tourists, but really quickly they started slapping us, throwing chairs and hitting, and punching us in the face," the unnamed individual said. “We’re really worried about what will happen next, and we don’t know if we’ll be at the game.”

    The source told Yisrael Hayom that the assailants fled after being confronted by another group of locals. None of those assaulted sustained major injuries.

    Earlier in the day, Israeli outlets announced that French police had banned the flying of Israeli and Maccabi Haifa flags during and prior to the match.

    Israeli Culture and Sports Minister Miri Regev fired back at the reports, calling the ban “unacceptable.”

    “I expect French authorities to ensure the safety of the Israeli fans and players and let the fans cheer their team like in all sports venues and competitions,” Regev said in a Thursday statement.

    Following conversations between Israeli Ambassador to Paris Aliza Bin-Nun and the French Foreign Ministry, officials later clarified that the flag ban was general and applied to both teams.

    The ministry also clarified that the ban only applied to flag-waving in the streets, not in the stands. France maintains that the ban was put into place as a matter of public safety, as a number of anti-Israel demonstrations were expected to occur before the soccer match.

    Maccabi Haifa echoed those sentiments in their own release, informing their supporters of the full details of the rules and urging compliance, as “fans who violate the instructions will be taken to the police station and be detained.”


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