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Austrian authorities investigate disturbance by pro-Palestinians against Israeli club

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VIENNA - Federal and local law enforcement agencies in Austria are investigating an incident in which pro-Palestinian protesters stormed the pitch during a football match between an Israeli club and a French team.

Players and protesters clashed on the field late Wednesday in Bischofshofen, near Salzburg, in a pre-season friendly late Wednesday between Maccabi Haifa and French side Lille. No injuries were reported.

Police said Thursday the disturbance was the work of locals, most of them of Turkish origin, whose identities were known.

The Austria Press Agency cited the Israeli club as saying team members Idan Vered und Dekel Keinan were physically accosted before police broke up the melee.

Police spokesman Ortwin Lamprecht said investigations are focused on whether the disturbance constituted a criminal act.

The match was interrupted near the end of regulation when about 20 protesters waving Palestinian flags and signs with anti-Israeli slogans stormed the pitch. The referee subsequently abandoned the match, with Lille leading 2-0.

The disturbance was condemned by leading Austrian politicians. Chancellor Werner Faymann said such incidents are "not to be tolerated." Austrian Football Federation President Leo Windtner said the abuse of football as "a political stage ... is unacceptable."

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