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German arrested for Hitler salute to Israeli athletes

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MUNICH (AFP) - A German security guard has been arrested for making a Hitler salute in front of a group of Israeli athletes visiting a memorial to the 1972 Munich Olympics massacre, police said Wednesday (Aug 17).

The 16 athletes from the Israeli European Championships team were visiting the Olympic Park in Munich on Tuesday (Aug 16) evening when the banned gesture was made, police said in a statement.

"One of the four security guards present was observed at around 7.20pm making a National Socialist gesture (forbidden 'Hitler salute')," the statement said.

Police immediately arrested the suspect, a 19-year-old from Berlin, and he has been banned from all further European Championships events. The athletes themselves did not notice the gesture, they said.

The arrest comes at a sensitive time, with Munich hosting the European Championships ahead of the 50th anniversary of the Olympics massacre, in which 11 Israelis were murdered.

On Sept 5, 1972, eight gunmen broke into the Israeli team's flat at the Olympic village, shooting dead two and taking nine Israelis hostage, threatening to kill them unless 232 Palestinian prisoners were released.

West German police responded with a bungled rescue operation in which all nine hostages were killed, along with five of the eight hostage-takers and a police officer.

The families of those killed have received €4.5 million (S$6.32 million) in compensation but say it is not enough and have vowed to boycott upcoming commemorations of the tragedy.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas further inflamed the situation during a visit to Berlin on Tuesday when he failed to condemn the massacre and instead compared crimes committed against the Palestinians to the Holocaust.

At a joint press conference with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, Mr Abbas was asked if he would apologise on behalf of the Palestinian gunmen who carried out the Munich massacre.

Mr Abbas did not give a direct reply but instead compared it to the situation in the Palestinian territories, and accused Israel of committing "50 massacres, 50 Holocausts" against Palestinians since 1947.