Maccabi coach Garcia quits due to Gaza conflict

JERUSALEM - Maccabi Tel Aviv's Spanish coach Oscar Garcia has left the club because of the conflict between Israel and militants in the Gaza Strip and compatriot Pako Ayestaran will replace him, the club said on Tuesday.

Maccabi general manager Jordi Cruyff said Garcia's decision to leave was personal. “We have a change of coach, Oscar decided to leave the job, to leave Israel. We have announced the arrival of a new coach.and we hope the transition is a very smooth one,” Cruyff said.

Garcia was starting a second stint in charge at Maccabi. His previous two-season term ended in 2013 with the league championship. He then took charge of Championship side Brighton and Hove Albion from English soccer's second tier.

Ayestaran was assistant to Napoli coach Rafa Benitez at Tenerife,Valencia and Liverpool. He moves to Maccabi from Mexican side Estudiantes Tecos and will join them in Cyprus where they host Greek side Asteras Tripolis in a Europa League fixture. "Some things happen in life and we have to accept personal decisions, the explanations I heard from Oscar were more personal than anything else," Cruyff added.

Garcia parted with the players earlier on Tuesday and has left the country. Israeli sport has been greatly affected by the conflict in Gaza which Israel launched on July 8 with the declared aim of ending the rocket salvoes which militants have fired into the Jewish state.

Palestinian health officials said that approximately 2,125 people, most of them civilians, including more than 490 children, have been killed in the seven-week long conflict. Sixty-four Israeli soldiers and four civilians in Israel have been killed. The scheduled start of the domestic league season on Aug. 8 has been delayed and many international sporting events in Israel have been called off.

Teams involved in European club soccer competitions have been forced to host opponents in Cyprus, and tennis, basketball, swimming events have been affected. Israel will host Argentina in their Davis Cup World Group playoff in Sunrise, Florida next month after the International Tennis Federation ruled out Tel Aviv as a venue due to security concerns.

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