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By ESPN Staff

UEFA bars Israel from hosting international games

TEL AVIV, Israel -- Israel was barred from hosting international soccer matches until further notice because of the violence that has wracked the region.

In a letter sent to the Israel Football Association on Monday, UEFA -- the European soccer governing body -- said all games scheduled for Israel "shall be played outside of Israeli territory."

"The IFA and its clubs shall be responsible for providing alternative venues in their function as host FA or host club according to the regulations of the competition concerned," said the letter from UEFA secretary general Lars-Christer Olsson.

The ban applies to international and club games, meaning that Israel's Maccabi Haifa will need to find an alternate venue for the second leg of the Champions League third qualifying-round series Aug. 22 against Liverpool.

Liverpool is home for the opening leg on Aug. 9, and coach Rafa Benitez has said it was "totally unacceptable" to travel to Israel.

It also affects the game between Israeli club Betar Jerusalem and Romania's Dinamo Bucharest in a second-leg UEFA Cup game, originally scheduled for Jerusalem on Aug. 24.

Hezbollah guerillas have been firing rockets into northern Israel.

The UEFA administration shall continue to monitor the safety and security situation in Israel. The decision is final, the letter said.

Between October 2001 and April 2004, all of Israel's home games in FIFA and UEFA-sanctioned tournaments were played outside the country, though a handful of international exhibitions were played in Israel.