Ironi Kiryat Shmona’s Europa League match against Athletic Bilbao originally scheduled to be played in Haifa on Thursday was postponed by a week on Wednesday due to the security situation in Israel.

Bilbao had asked UEFA earlier this week to put off the encounter due to the ongoing rocket fire from Gaza, but was told by European soccer’s governing body that the game would go ahead as planned.

However, shortly before embarking for Israel, the Spaniards heard of the bus explosion in Tel Aviv and following further discussions with UEFA and between UEFA President Michel Platini and Israel Football Association chairman Avi Luzon, a decision was made to reschedule the game for November 29.

UEFA cited “the tense security situation in the region” for postponing the match and Bilbao president, Josu Urrutia, explained that his team could not travel to Israel as “no one could guarantee its safety”.

“We learned of the attack while we were at the airport, just before we got on the plane,” he said.

“We thought the truce could occur soon, but right now no one can guarantee security.” Kiryat Shmona coach Barak Bachar empathized with Bilbao.

“We can’t have any complaints towards Bilbao,” he said. “We are slightly disappointed, but we accept it.

“You can understand their fear.

“I don’t think that the bus bombing in Tel Aviv is a reason to postpone the match, but we want teams to come to Israel and leave with a positive impression of the country and not a feeling of fear and war.”

Luzon paid tribute to UEFA for not moving the match abroad, as well as not relocating next week’s draw for the European Under-21 Championships.

“I would like to thank the heads of UEFA, and particularly President Michal Platini, General Secretary Gianni Infantino and deputy general secretary Theodore Theodoridis for showing faith in the State of Israel and in Israeli soccer,” said Luzon.

“All other activities scheduled for next week, including the draw for the European Under-21 Championships, will go ahead as planned.”

The draw will be held at the Hilton Hotel in Tel Aviv next Wednesday, with the tournament set to take place in Israel from June 5-18, 2013 at four venues: Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Netanya and Petah Tikva.

The Daily Mail reported on Wednesday that UEFA would consider asking England to be on stand-by to host the championships if the “Israel crisis escalates”.

The IFA rejected any such suggestion.

“IFA chairman Avi Luzon is currently holding meetings at UEFA headquarters and has spoken with President Michel Platini and other senior officials.

“Therefore we can announce beyond any doubt that there is no truth to the rumors and that UEFA never considered relocating the tournament to another country,” an IFA press release read.

There will be one Israeli team in action in the Europa League on Thursday, with Hapoel Tel Aviv visiting Atletico Madrid.

With just a single point from four matches, Hapoel has lost any chance of progressing, while the Spanish powerhouse can secure its place in the Round of 32 with a win.

With the match in Spain essentially meaningless for Hapoel, all of the talk ahead of Thursday’s game was regarding the sacking of assistant coach Shavit Elimelech on Monday.

The former Hapoel goalkeeper returned to the club as Nitzan Shirazi’s assistant, but his days with the Reds always seemed numbered after Shirazi took a medical leave of absence in late September and was replaced by Yossi Abuksis.

Elimelech and Abuksis have a strained relationship from their days as teammates, but the latter denied that he fired his assistant for that reason.

“A coach has a right to pick his staff,” Abuksis said.

“I didn’t pick this staff because I arrived in the middle of the season, so I gave it some time and saw that it wasn’t working.

“I haven’t got a bad word to say about him. This isn’t personal. This is a completely professional decision.”

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