CAIRO - Spain's football giant FC Barcelona has angered Muslim fans by inviting released Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit as a guest of honor to a derby game with rival Real Madrid next month.
Gilad Shalit's invite is a new cover up of Zionist crimes under the pretense of sports, a Gaza-based prisoners' organization said in a statement cited by Yediot Aharonot on Thursday, September 27
How can a dignified sports club, which calls for culture and humanity, invite a murderer and criminal like Shalit to honor and thank him?"
The football giant has extended a VIP invitation to Shalit, who was released last year after five years in captivity by Palestinian resistance group, to attend a derby match with Real Madrid on October 7.
Barcelona is a place of unity not divisions, the club's vice president, Carles VilarrubÃ, told reporters.
This invitation does not indicate in any way that Barca takes a position in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The Spanish club confirmed that Shalit had been given the ticket to attend the derby game.
We received a request from an Israeli minister to invite Shalit, and we accepted, a source in the Spanish club told Agence France-Presse (AFP).
It should be made clear that Barca takes no position through this invitation in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
We recall that in 2011 the club's vice president, Carles Villarubi, received Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas and showed him the club facilities," the source said.
Founded in 1899, FC Barcelona is the second richest club in the world.
It has attracted the biggest names in football such as legends Johan Cruyff, Gary Lineker, Rivaldo, Ronaldo and Leon Messi.
Palestinians lamented that the Spanish football team is inviting an Israeli killer of Palestinian civilians.
Shalit fired from a tank at Gaza and inflicted casualties, most of them civilian, Palestinian ambassador to Spain Musa Amer Odeh was quoted as saying by Spanish newspaper El Pais.
He was not kidnapped, but a prisoner of war."
Shalit was taken prisoner during a cross-border raid by Palestinian resistance groups in 2006.
Following his capture, Israel imposed a crippling siege on the Gaza Strip, home to 1.8 million Palestinians, badly affecting livelihood in the seaside enclave.
Israel also launched a three-week deadly offensive on Gaza, which left thousands of people killed and injured and destroyed thousands of houses.
Shalit was released last year under a prisoner swap between Israel and Hamas, under which more than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners were freed.
Angry with the invitation, pro-Palestinian organizations sent a letter to Barcelona President Sandro Rosell, asking him to withdraw the invitation
The former soldier Gilad Shalit is not just an Israeli citizen; he's also a Sergeant Major of the Israel Defense Forces, an army that since 1967 has illegally occupied the Palestinian territories of East Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Gaza strip and the Syrian territory of the Golan Heights, said the petition signed by more than 800 people.We are also surprised to see your club express so much friendship and sympathy towards the only Israeli soldier to be imprisoned in recent years as a result of this conflict while, at the same time, maintaining absolute silence about the 4,660 Palestinian prisoners now confined in Israeli prisons.