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Palestine: Celtic remove banners put up by supporters ahead of game with St Johnstone

The Hoops had permitted some fans to pay tribute to captain Scott Brown who is to play his final home game of the season against St Johnstone before leaving for Aberdeen; Celtic fans have staged similar pro-Palestine political protests in the past which prompted punishments from UEFA

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Image: Celtic have condemned the actions of a group of fans for hanging pro-Palestine banners and flags inside Parkhead

Celtic have removed flags and banners which were put up by a group of fans at Parkhead in solidarity with Palestine amid ongoing violence in the Middle East, and have described their behaviour as "unacceptable".

With unrest between Israel and Palestine continuing on Wednesday, barrages of rockets have streamed out of Gaza while Israeli jets pounded the territory in return, in the most severe outbreak of violence there since the 2014 war. At least 53 people have been killed in Gaza including 14 children, and six in Israel. At least 304 have been wounded.

A Celtic fan group had posted images on social media showing Palestine flags and banners on display inside the ground ahead of their penultimate Scottish Premiership game of the season against St Johnstone.

The club have criticised "a small group" of fans for their "unnacceptable" actions after they had originally been permitted into Celtic Park to place banners in support of captain Scott Brown - who is to play his final home game before departing for Aberdeen at the end of the season after 14 years with the Glasgow side.

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Image: Celtic have been fined by UEFA for fans who displayed pro-Palestinian flags at games in the past

A statement from Celtic read: "We had invited supporters to pay tribute to our club captain, Scott Brown, by giving them the opportunity to display their own banners in the stadium.

"Unfortunately a small group, which was given access in good faith, has attempted to exploit this opportunity, taken advantage of an occasion intended for our club captain, Scott Brown, and used it for a different purpose.

"Clearly this is unacceptable and the display was immediately taken down by the club."

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Clubs can be subject to fines and disciplinary action from UEFA if players or supporters display political banners or engage in acts of political protest during games.

Pro-Palestine gestures have been staged at Celtic Park in the past, including in 2016 during a Champions League play-off match between the Hoops and Israeli club Hapoel Beer-Sheva.

Celtic supporters groups raised over £130,000 for Palestinian charities in an effort to match a fine which was handed out by UEFA for hanging banners and flags in solidarity with the country.

Two years prior to that, the club was fined more than £15,000 after a Palestinian flag was displayed at a Champions League qualifier against KR Reykjavik.

Meanwhile, Liverpool forward Mohamed Salah has called on world leaders, including Prime Minister Boris Johnson, to "do everything in their power" to stop the violence and killing of innocent people, amid the continued violence in the Middle East this week.

He wrote on Twitter: "I'm calling on all the world leaders including on the Prime Minister of the country that has been my home for the past 4 years to do everything in their power to make sure the violence and killing of innocent people stops immediately. Enough is enough."

Salah's team-mate Sadio Mane has also shown his support by posting the word "Heartbreaking" on his Instagram account along with an image which read "FREE PALESTINE".

'Celtic statement misleading and crass'

The North Curve Celtic supporters' group tweeted following the removal of the pro-Palestine banners to say they are "disappointed, though sadly not surprised", and added that they regard the move to be the antithesis of the club's values in the context of the situation in the Middle East.

A statement from the group read: "This morning the Green Brigade set up two small tributes for two issues close to the hearts of Celtic supporters.

"First, we paid tribute to departing Celtic captain, Scott Brown. Unable to give Scott the send-off he deserves tonight we left a banner to mark his final match at Celtic Park.

"The 'Brown 8' banner not only honours Brown but reflects a special, charity, tribute t-shirt being sold by North Curve Celtic, with proceeds supporting the Hospital for Children, Glasgow. Around £7000 has been raised to date.

"Second, we displayed a legitimate flag which has proudly been flown by Celtic fans for generations. We are disappointed, though sadly not surprised, the flag of Palestine causes distress for Celtic plc.

"While we view flying the Palestinian flag as an act of humanity and solidarity, the removal and censorship of the flag demonstrates how far our current board have strayed from the values of Celtic Football Club.

"To remain neutral to hideous and violent acts of oppression is to side with the oppressor, which is an affront to the founding ethos of our club.

"Finally, we left a banner in tribute to our friend and Celtic supporter Salah Ajarma, who tragically died last month. A frequent visitor to Glasgow and Celtic Park, Salah met Scott Brown in 2012 when he brought a group of Palestinian refugees, and their flags, to Celtic Park.

"The Celtic plc statement was deliberately misleading and crass. Its absence from any social media platform proves the cowardice of those responsible for it. We are confident that the Celtic support will continue to stand with the people of Palestine.

"Although we are unwelcome to do so at Celtic Park we encourage all to join your local solidarity demonstrations."

Sky Sports News have contacted Celtic for a response to the North Curve group's statement.

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