Israeli state media will broadcast FIFA World Cup matches this summer for free in neighbouring Arab countries in a controversial bid to woo Arab audiences, the Israeli Foreign Ministry has announced.
The ministry's Arabic-language social media said in a statement last week that its state-run Arabic channel will be airing the games during the World Cup in Russia.
"Sports fans in countries close to Israel - Jordan, Lebanon, Egypt and the West Bank - will be able to watch games for free on the Israeli satellite channel Makan," the statement said.
"The channel will broadcast the matches in Arabic in a historic step that confirms the status of the Arabic language and Israel's respect for it," it claimed.
Israeli authorities paid 6.3 million Euros ($7.7 million) for the rights to show the games, Russian state-run Sputnik News reported.
The development has received mixed responses, with Egyptian television host Ahmad Moussa warning his viewers that Israel could use the games to "spread propaganda".
Qatar's BeIN satellite network holds the broadcast rights to the 2018 Russia World Cup in the Arab world. It is not clear whether the Israeli move constitute a violation of BeIn's exclusive rights, but Israeli media were quick to suggest it may be partly aimed at undercutting it.
Four Arab countries - Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Morocco and Tunisia - will take part in the World Cup, which kicks off on 14 June.
Egypt, a record seven-time African champion, will face host Russia and Saudi Arabia in Group A at the tournament.
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