Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit was released from captivity in 2011 (Reuters)
Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit was released from captivity in 2011 (Reuters) Reuters

Barcelona has announced it has invited three Palestinians to their 7 October game against Real Madrid in response to Hamas calling for a media boycott for the club offering a ticket to an Israeli solider.

The four-time European champions confirmed Israeli soldier Gilad Schalit will be attending the El Clásico at the Nou Camp, but said he was not invited but the club merely accepted a request to game a match during his visit to Barcelona.

Shalit was captured by Gaza militants in June 2006 and returned home in October 2011 under an Israel-Palestinian deal on prisoner exchange.

The news of Shalit's upcoming visit to Barcelona led to Hamas announcing they would refuse to broadcast any of the La Liga leader's matches and no newspaper would report on the club.

Barcelona has now announced that is has accepted three requests from the Palestinian embassy to extend their invitations for three Palestinians.

The club now confirm president of the Palestinian Football Union Jibril Rajoub, Palestinian Authority ambassador Musa Amer Odeh and footballer Mahmoud Al Sarsak, who was held in an Israeli jail for three years until being released this year following a hunger strike, will now attend the game.

FC Barcelona vice-president Carles Vilarrubí said following the Schalit invite: "Barcelona is a place of unity not divisions. This invitation does not indicate in any way that Barca takes a position in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict."

Barcelona are known to be hugely popular among Palestinians among the Gaza strip.

A petition from anti-Israel activists called for Barcelona to withdraw their invitation to Shalit.

It reads: "Since April, Gilad Shalit is no longer officially part of the Israeli army. However, in the eyes of the Catalan people and the world as a whole he still symbolically represents the Israel Defence Forces.

"We are also surprised to see your club express so much friendship and sympathy towards the only Israeli soldier to be imprisoned in recent years as a result of this conflict while, at the same time, maintaining absolute silence about the 4,660 Palestinian prisoners now confined in Israeli prisons."

Barcelona reiterated they have strived to promote peace in the Middle East. The club mention how they had organised for a total of 31 children, 16 Palestinians and 15 Israelis, to train together for the first time at their youth academy.