A Palestinian fan was detained for raising the Yemeni flag during Tuesday’s dual World Cup-Asian Cup qualifier between Saudi Arabia and Palestine.
Ahmad Al-Yumni, a 24-year-old construction worker from Hebron, was arrested by the Palestinian Authority (PA) for protesting against the war in Yemen.
The UN says at least 7,025 civilians have been killed and 11,140 injured in the fighting in Yemen since March 2015, with 65 per cet of the deaths attributed to Saudi-led coalition air strikes.
In front of a crowd estimated at 14,000, the unravelled Yemeni flag displayed the slogan “From Palestine, here is Yemen.”
Palestinian carrying the flag of Yemen during a Saudi-Palestinian match in Ramallah with the phrase: "From Palestine, here's Yemen" that expresses solidarity between the Yemeni and the Palestinian people in their historical fight against imperialism and colonialism. pic.twitter.com/H3NHzq4H8a
— Ameed (@Palimperator) October 16, 2019
“My family was not able to see him, know about the details of his detention or where he was detained until a day later,” Yumni’s brother Kayed told Middle East Eye.
He explained that security services informed the family that his brother would be freed in return for 1,000 Jordanian dinars ($1,410).
Held at Faisal Al-Husseini Stadium in the town of Al-Ram on the outskirts of Jerusalem, the game was a qualifying match for both the World Cup 2022 and the Asia Cup 2023 international tournaments, and resulted in a 0-0 draw.
Kayed added that Yumni was released from Israeli prisons a year ago after being detained for two years.
The move to play and hold the match in the occupied West Bank is a break from the norms and usual process for Arab sports teams, which have for decades held games and events with Palestinian teams in a third country in order to avoid passing through Israeli checkpoints.
Thousands of PA security officers, including armed officers, were reported to have been patrolling major streets in Al-Ram and securing the entrances to the stadium.
Plainclothes police personnel had also been stationed within the crowd to prevent fans from holding up placards or making chants against Saudi Arabia, reported London-based pan-Arab newspaper Dar Al-Hayat.
While the match and arrival of the Saudi delegation could well be perceived as an increase in relations between Saudi Arabia and Palestine, and declared as “a pleasure for the Palestinian people” by PA President Mahmoud Abbas called, it has mostly been criticised for its effect in normalising ties with the state of Israel.
During their trip, the Saudi team visited Al-Aqsa Mosque, travelling across the Israeli occupation’s checkpoints to do so.
The international Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement released a statement last week condemning the move as being “in the context of the dangerous official normalisation of the Saudi regime – along with the UAE, Bahrain, Oman, Qatar and others – with Israel and the growing normal security and political relations between them, [the visit] is part of the attempts to liquidate the Palestinian cause.”