Israel’s Defeat to Kosovo in Euro 2024 Qualifier Marks Disappointing Return

The Israeli football team played their first match since the October 7 Hamas massacres and the start of the war in Gaza, losing 1-0 to Kosovo in a delayed Euro 2024 qualifier on Sunday. The game in Pristina, originally scheduled for October 15, was played under heavy security. Kosovo, predominantly Muslim, is a close ally of the United States and has good diplomatic relations with Israel.

Impressive security measures were in place around the stadium before and during the match, including the deployment of special police units. The Israeli team’s convoy to the stadium was also closely watched as it travelled through the city.

The match, which drew a small crowd on a rainy night, went off without a hitch. Kosovo won thanks to a 41st-minute goal by Milot Rashica. Romania leads Group I, a point ahead of Switzerland. Israel stayed third, four points behind the Swiss and a point ahead of Kosovo.

A few hours before the match, feminist activists unfurled a large Palestinian flag bearing the inscription “Free Palestine” on the facade of a hotel in Pristina city center, before being quickly removed by the police.

The unprecedented Hamas attack left around 1,200 dead on the Israeli side, mostly civilians killed on October 7, according to the latest official Israeli figures. The Israeli military estimates some 240 people were taken hostage into the Gaza Strip during the initial Hamas attack. Among these captives there are at least 30 children, according to Israeli media.

Israel’s relentless campaign in response has killed at least 11,180 people in Gaza, also mostly civilians and including 4,609 children, according to the Hamas government’s media office.