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Bomb kills Palestinian footballer

Gaza: Ahed Zaqout, a former Palestinian national team player, has been killed by an Israeli bomb that hit his apartment in Gaza, Palestinian medical officials said on Thursday.

“Palestine has lost one of their best players, he may have been the best midfielder we ever had,” Gaza sports journalist Khaled Zaher said.

Neighbours and medics, who rushed to Zaqout’s apartment, said he was killed on Wednesday while sleeping in his bed. The 49-year-old was not known to belong to any particular political entity and had never expressed clear political views.

The fair-haired midfielder captained the junior national side and turned out once for the national team in 1994 in a friendly against a team of French stars that included Michel Platini. More recently, Zaqout turned to coaching and hosted a sports show on national Palestinian television.

Just about a month-and-a-half back, Israel’s sports minister had defended the country’s travel restrictions against Palestinian football players in a letter to Fifa president Sepp Blatter, citing security concerns.

Tel Aviv indicated potential attacks by Palestinian militants as the pretext for the prohibitive travel rules that affect most Palestinians, including athletes. Israel had barred travel between the West Bank and Gaza — territories located on opposite ends of Israel which Palestinians seek to include in a future state.

Livnat said Israel detained Palestinian national team player Sameh Maraabeh in April based on suspicion over a meeting with a “military activist” of the Islamic militant group Hamas during his team’s training in Qatar. She alleged that Maraabeh took funding, a mobile phone, and a written message from the activist.