Toronto (Canada) (AFP) - The ATP Tour's planned inaugural Negev Israel Open in Tel Aviv next month will not be contested because of security concerns due to conflict in the region, officials said Monday.
Israel and Hamas, the Islamic militant group that rules Gaza, have been in a major conflict since July 8 when Israel launched a military operation against rocket-firing militants in Gaza, one that has cost more than 1,800 Palestinian lives and those of 64 Israeli soldiers in and near Gaza as well as three civilians in Israel.
The tournament, moved from the Russian venue of St. Petersburg, was set to become the first ATP event in Israel since 1996.
"We regret the ATP World Tour event in Tel Aviv, Israel, will not take place this year," ATP president Chris Kermode said. "Sadly, we do not feel we can proceed as planned given the situation in the region.
"Ensuring the security of our players, fans and all those involved in organizing a world-class event, is our number one priority. We hope to be back in Tel Aviv next year.
"In the meantime, and much more importantly, we hope for a swift return to peace in the region."
Asaf Tochmeir, the Israeli Tennis Association (ITA) chairman, was unhappy with the ATP's decision, according to a statement posted on the tour's website announcing the canceling of this year's event.
"We regret the ATP's decision," Tochmeir said. "We at the ITA have done everything to ensure a successful ATP event takes place in Israel. We have raised sufficient funding and have taken care of all organizational requirements.
"On this occasion, I would like to express our most heartfelt concern for the soldiers as well as our condolences for the civilian casualties. We hope to see a swift resolution to the current situation."