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Israel’s Counter-Terror Bureau Weighs Warning Against Travel to Qatar for World Cup

Almost 15,000 Israelis have already purchased tickets for the tournament; security officials said to be worried over Iranian presence in the country.
A view of the fence around the Doha Exhibition and Convention Center where soccer's World Cup draw was held on April 1, 2022. (AP Photo/Darko Bandic)
A view of the fence around the Doha Exhibition and Convention Center where soccer’s World Cup draw was held on April 1, 2022. (AP Photo/Darko Bandic)

Israel’s counter-terror bureau may warn Israelis against traveling to Qatar for the World Cup in November, according to Hebrew language media reports Tuesday.

Israel already recommends against all non-essential travel to Qatar, a Gulf state with which Jerusalem has no formal diplomatic relations and where Iran continues to wield considerable influence, but has not yet raised its warning level from 3 to 4, the highest grade.

According to the Israel Hayom newspaper, the National Security Council is set to meet next week on the matter, with officials particularly concerned about an Iranian presence at the match.

Almost 15,000 Israelis have already purchased tickets for the 2022 World Cup, set for November due to Qatar’s blazing summers, Israel Hayom reported.

Agencies predicted some 25,000 to 30,000 Israelis may travel there for the soccer tourney, but Israeli officials fear they could become easy targets for Iran or its proxies.

“This is a complicated security challenge that requires cooperation with all the Qatari authorities, something we aren’t certain will happen,” a security source told Israel Hayom.

“Only after our meeting will we understand if and how we can handle this challenge. So many Israelis are scheduled to be there — it’s something that has never happened in a state with which we have unstable relations, to say the least.”

Qatar has promised to allow entry to visitors from every country during the World Cup, on the condition that they have tickets to at least one match, which also applies to Israelis.

Nitzan Uriel, a former head of the counter-terror bureau, which issues travel warnings, told Channel 12 news that it’s too early to issue warnings for the tournament.

“I don’t think they can give a warning [now] that will be relevant for the World Cup in November,” he said, suggesting that the counter-terror bureau issue a warning closer to the event if necessary, and agree to reimburse those who have already bought tickets.

Uriel added that, with the exception of the 1972 Munich Olympics, large international sports tournaments are not normally prime terror targets. “There are too many interests who want it to pass calmly and peacefully.”

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