sports man 298.88.
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The military conflict in the North may be drawing to an end, but the Israel Football Association has decided not to take any risks with any of the teams in the combat zone.
In an unprecedented move, IFA chairman Itzhak "Itche" Menahem announced Monday that none of the top three domestic leagues will begin their 2006/07 seasons this weekend as planned.
While the announcement was for a one-week postponement - with the third round of Toto Cup matches to be played this weekend instead - the IFA also said that it will re-evaluate the situation next week to make a final decision on when the season will officially begin.
"The current situation doesn't permit us to launch the leagues on time," IFA official Pini Keinan told The Jerusalem Post. "The delay is for one week at the moment, but a two-week postponement is also a realistic possibility.
"We will not compromise any team's safety and the relevant developments will be monitored in coming days."
The battle in the North has taken a heavy toll on Israeli clubs. Foreign players have reportedly refused to join their teams, many preseason training camps have been cancelled and most of the northern teams' fans have virtually become refugees due to the continuous bombardment of soccer hothouses such as Haifa, Nazareth and Acre.
Reigning champion Maccabi Haifa has been the most severely hit from the current crisis. The Greens relocated their training facility to Wingate Institute outside Netanya following Katyusha attacks near Kiryat Eliezer and all the teams' foreign players have moved to the Sheraton Moria hotel in Tel Aviv on temporary basis.
"Team president Ya'acov Shachar demanded action [from the IFA] on this front, since our preparations were hampered due to the situation," Haifa spokesman Roi Daniel told The Jerusalem Post. "It's virtually impossible for us to start the league this weekend. This decision is totally justified and correct.
"The teams in the North have been hard hit and the smaller teams are in critical condition, with no arrangements whatsoever made for the new season."
The Toto Betting Organizing Committee is recommending a two-week delay of the Premier League, citing the lack of public interest and the situation in the North.