Updated: Monday, 14 July 2014 06:36 | By Agence France-Presse

Either side of Gaza border, fans cheer World Cup teams

A cry of despair emanates from Mefalsim kibbutz, a few miles from the Gaza border. But it's nothing to do with rocket fire - Germany have just denied Argentina the World Cup.


Either side of Gaza border, fans cheer World Cup teams

Palestinians watch a television projection of a live telecast displaying the the 2014 FIFA World Cup final between Argentina and Germany in Brazil, in the southern Gaza Strip town of Rafah on July 13, 2014 - by Said Khatib

Dozens of residents of the kibbutz gathered late Sunday to support Argentina, their country of origin, as Israel waged an aerial campaign against next door Gaza, and rockets continued to rain into the Jewish state.

The Schwartzberg family have erected a big screen in their garden to show the football match, and neighbours tuck into grilled chorizo sausage and enjoy beers as cries of "Vamos Argentina!" ring out in Spanish.

Air raid sirens intermittently sound, as rockets are fired from the Gaza Strip some 10 kilometres (6 miles) away, but residents who are normally ready to scramble to shelters remain glued to the screen.

Chacho Schwartzberg, 64, has been an Israeli since 1986, the year Argentina last won the World Cup, but proudly declares "tonight I am Argentinian."

"Football runs through my veins and tonight I want victory," he says, as the younger generation cheers on with their parents in Spanish.

"Tonight we're not thinking about rockets, we're partying," 23-year-old Gilad says excitedly, sporting an Argentine football shirt.

A short distance away, air strikes light up the sky in Gaza as Israel pummels the Strip for a seventh straight day in an operation to stamp out rocket fire.

Militants have fired hundreds of rockets into Israel, including as far as Tel Aviv, setting off air raid sirens in Israeli towns, but the rocket fire has caused no deaths.

"We're used to living under the threat from rockets," says Chacho, more interested right now in the match than the conflict.

"It's a tragedy, what is happening in Gaza, but tonight we don't want to think about it."

- Across the border in Gaza -

But Gazans cannot afford to forget the Israeli operation that has claimed at least 170 lives and injured more than 1,000 people in the Strip, as air strikes continue to rain down.

Nowhere is open in Gaza for people to watch the match in public. 

The streets are empty and people stay indoors, watching if they can with friends and family and praying for delivery from bombing raids.

"We decided to organise a get-together under the staircase in our building so that we don't have to leave if a bombing starts suddenly," says Mohammed Akila, 26, in Gaza City.

"We want to watch the final - it would be a shame to miss the World Cup fun," he says.

Akila will at least have some cause for celebration, having declared before the match that he was supporting Germany, who went on to win 1-0 in extra time.

Akila sits with a group of around 10 young men, with a table of nuts and other snacks laid out in front of them.

"If it weren't for the war we'd have gone to watch at a cafe by the sea.

"But we know Israel is bombing everywhere, like what happened in Khan Yunis," he says, referring to an air strike on a beachfront cafe that killed nine people watching the Argentina-Netherlands semi-final on Tuesday.

Fadi Zayd, 36, a resident of Beit Lahiya in northern Gaza, says he is ignoring Israeli warnings to locals in the north of the Strip that if they don't evacuate their homes they risk becoming victims of intensive air raids there.

"I couldn't not watch the World Cup final!" he declared over the phone.

"I'm going to watch the match at my house even though the Israelis ordered us to leave our houses. Our fate is in God's hands," said the father of six.

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