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Drogba among stars to support Palestine

A host of the world's top footballers including Didier Drogba have pledged their support to Palestine during their ongoing conflict with Israel.

The group - which includes dozens of other stars from across the globe including Chelsea's Eden Hazard, Newcastle's Yohan Cabaye and Paris Saint-Germain's Jeremy Menez claim that two footballers - Omar Rowis, 23, and Mohammed Nemer, 22 - have been detained in Israel without charge or trial.

A statement released via the personal website of former Sevilla striker Frederic Kanoute read: "We, as European football players, express our solidarity with the people of Gaza who are living under siege and denied basic human dignity and freedom."

Objecting to UEFA's decision to allow Israel to host the Under-21 European Championships, the statement added: "We are informed that on 10 November 2012 the Israeli army bombed a sports stadium in Gaza, resulting in the death of four young people playing football: Mohamed Harara and Ahmed Harara, 16 and 17 years old; Matar Rahman and Ahmed Al Dirdissawi, 18 years old."

"It is unacceptable that children are killed while they play football. Israel hosting the UEFA Under-21 European Championship, in these circumstances, will be seen as a reward for actions that are contrary to sporting values."

As well as confirming their stand, the group have urged the international community to afford residents the protection they deserve.

"Despite the recent ceasefire, Palestinians are still forced to endure a desperate existence under occupation, they must be protected by the international community," the statement continued. "All people have the right to a life of dignity, freedom and security. We hope that a just settlement will finally emerge."

This is not the first instance of criticism of UEFA's decision to hand the country the upcoming championships, with Eric Cantona having already written to the governing body's president, Michel Platini.

"Racism, human rights abuses and gross violations of international law are daily occurrences in that country," Cantona said. "It is time to end Israel's impunity and to insist on the same standards of equality, justice and respect for international law that we demand of other states."

The Palestinian Football Association has long claimed that it has been inhibited in its operation due to the Israeli military. The association's president Jibril Rajoub, had written to Platini earlier this year - claiming Israel's treatment of Palestinian players was in breach of FIFA regulations. However Platini appeared unsympathetic in his response.

"We cannot hold the Israel FA responsible for the political situation in the region or for legal procedures in place in its country," he said. "You know better than anyone that it is not by punishing people and isolating them that we achieve our aims. It is through dialogue that solutions are found."