Abbas under fire for traveling to World Cup final as tensions escalate between Israel and Gaza


(JTA) — Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is under fire from some parts of the Palestinian world for his decision to attend the World Cup final in Moscow amid increased tension between Israel and Gaza.

Abbas, who will attend the final on Sunday, met on Saturday at the Kremlin with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“I’m glad of the opportunity to tell you about the contact we have had with your neighbors, and leaders of various countries,” Putin told Abbas, according to Russian news sources.

“I know that the situation in the region is difficult and we are grateful that you have used the World Cup as a reason to come to Moscow,” he also said.

WAFA, the official news agency of the Palestinian Authority, reported that Putin and Abbas “discussed the latest developments in Palestine, particularly Israel’s plan to demolish Khan al-Ahmar community near Jerusalem.” The report also stated that Abbas “also discussed issues of mutual concern for Russia and Palestine and praised the historical relations between the two countries.”

Abbas was accompanied by Jibril Rjoub, head of the Palestinian Football Association and the Palestinian Olympic Committee.

The meeting came as Palestinians in Gaza shot more than 170 rockets and mortar shells at southern Israel, which was met by Israeli airstrikes on at least 40 Hamas targets.

Putin met on Wednesday at the Kremlin with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, before the prime minister and his wife attended a FIFA World Cup semi-final match. While Netanyahu had billed the visit as a summit about regional issues, Putin had welcomed Netanyahu “during your private visit to the FIFA World Cup.”

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