Israeli athletes, including Eran Zahavi of Maccabi Tel Aviv and former NBA star Omri Casspi, have rallied behind a campaign advocating for the release of captives held by Hamas following the massive terrorist attack near the Gaza border, with their photos showcased alongside those of the abductees.
“More than 200 hostages are being held by Hamas in unknown condition and their health is unaccounted for,” their posts read. “More than 200 young men and women, grandmothers and grandfathers, and babies. Citizens of countries around the world. Speaking up for hostages is not political. It is humanitarian. The world of sport is asking all athletes to heed the call to protect the safety and security of all hostages.”
Earlier, there was an uproar on social media after UEFA announced that a minute of silence would be observed only "in memory of the victims of yesterday's terrorist attack in Brussels." This seemed like a significant setback in the battle for global awareness of the conflict with Hamas.
In an unusual move, and following significant public outcry that included players such as Zahavi and Maccabi Haifa’s Dolev Haziza, UEFA deleted the original announcement and released a new one.
“UEFA can confirm that a moment of silence will be observed at all UEFA EURO 2024 qualifying matches tonight in memory of all the members of the European football family killed in recent days in Europe and Israel,” the statement read.
World soccer’s governing body FIFA has yet to issue any statement regarding the Hamas attack, nor has it lowered the Israeli flag to half-mast at its headquarters in Switzerland.
The only action taken was a letter from the organization's president, Gianni Infantino, to the chairman of the Israel Football Association, Ofer Eini, which read,
"I would like to express... our deepest condolences to the Israel Football Association and the Palestine Football Association, in light of the horrendous violence that has been occurring over the past days," Infantino wrote.