Israeli Footballers Assaulted By Pro-Palestinian Protesters During Match

Maccabi Haifa playing against Bayern Munich in 2009. Grzegorz Jereczek

Pro-Palestinian protesters rushed the pitch during a football match between French club Lille and Israeli club Maccabi Haifa in Bischofshofen, Austria last night, assaulting several players.

The game, a pre-season friendly, was interrupted in the 84th minute when around 20 people stormed the pitch, waving palestinian flags.

The group attacked several Israeli players, including Maccabi Haifa captain Yossi Benayoun, reports The Local.

Maccabi Haifa players were assaulted tonight by an anti-Israel mob during a "friendly" match against Lille. Sickening

— Jonathan (@jj34) July 23, 2014

Video footage of the incident shows several of the protesters clashing with players as stewards and security hawl the protesters off the pitch. Full time was called at 86 minutes, with Lille leading 2 - 0 before the disruption.

Austrian Chancellor Werner Faymann condemned the protesters. "Guests who stay in Austria, have the right to do so in safety, regardless of their origin or their religious affiliation," he said.

Maccabi Haifa issued a statement about the incident, complaining the team had "experienced an uncomfortable atmosphere of violence on the pitch and in the stands", blaming the "incitement in Turkish media" as the cause of the attack. According to the club, the protesters "were mostly Turkish immigrants".

Maccabi Haifa has several Muslim players in the squad and insisted its ethos is one of "co-existence and tolerance." According to Israeli newspaper Haaretz, Maccabi Haifa is the most popular side in the country among Arab fans.

"We condemn the violence that was used against us. This happened not because of sports or football, but because we are a team that represents Israel," a team spokesperson told the Jerusalem Post.

Maccabi Haifa is considered Israel's ambassador in UEFA, as they are the most successful club in the country's history in all European competitions. Their next pre-season friendly will keep them on the continent, facing Germany's Paderborn on Saturday.

Several anti-Israel protests have lead to anti-semitic violence in European capitals, since Tel Aviv intensified air strikes on the Gaza strip.

Israel severely reduced its diplomatic entourage in Turkey after its embassy in Ankara and consulate in Istanbul were attacked by Pro-Palestinian protesters last week.

German police are on high alert, as 14 people were arrested in Essen for planning to attack a synagogue this week. This follows German police officials issuing a ban on anti-semitic slurs, after chants of "Jew, Jew, cowardly pig" were heard at an anti-Israeli protest in Berlin last week.