Netanyahu plans inquiry of Beitar soccer fans who rioted in Belgium


(JTA) — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he plans to conduct an inquiry into “possible action” against Israeli soccer fans who rioted in Belgium.

In a statement released Friday, Netanyahu condemned “a small group of Beitar Jerusalem fans” who the previous day in Charleroi “besmirched an entire fan base and harmed the country’s image,” The Jerusalem Post reported.

A number of the team’s fans, who are known for being right wing and anti-Arab, threw smoke bombs, flares and firecrackers at a Europa League qualifying round match in the Belgian city.

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Fans from the opposing team chanted anti-Semitic slogans at the Israelis, Belgian media reported.

Beitar lost the match, in which Charleroi goalie Nicolas Penneteau was hit by a hard object thrown from the crowd, forcing a delay. Beitar can expect severe punishment from European soccer’s governing body, UEFA, The Jerusalem Post reported.

Beitar’s owner announced Friday that he intended to sell the team because he is ashamed of its behavior.

Netanyahu said he and Internal Security Minister Gilad Erdan would conduct an inquiry. In addition, the acting police commissioner announced Friday that the Jerusalem District Police will handle the investigation together with Belgian authorities. Police said that a number of fans were questioned upon landing at Ben Gurion Airport from various flights, but no more details were provided, according to The Jerusalem Post.

“It is good that the decisive majority of Beitar fans immediately condemned the behavior of that same small group,” Netanyahu said in a statement.

The two teams are scheduled to play again next week in Jerusalem.

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