Israeli fans face arrest over violence at Belgian match

Hundreds of fans of a controversial Israeli football team are facing arrest for wreaking havoc at a European match in Belgium last night.

Supporters of Beitar Jerusalem, a team that has never fielded an Arab player in their 79-year history, threw smoke bombs and flares onto the pitch and hit the opposition goalkeeper with a missile as their side was thrashed 5-1 by Belgian team Charleroi.

The Jerusalem Post reports that police and customs officials are awaiting the returning fans at Israel's Ben-Gurion airport, where many are likely to face arrest for fighting outside the stadium, as well as the on-pitch disturbances.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said today that an inquiry would be launched into the fans' behaviour after meeting with Israel's public security minister today, according to a statement from the prime minister's office.

"It is good that the decisive majority of Beitar fans immediately condemned the behavior of that same small group. We will not allow them to besmirch an entire group of fans and harm the image of the state," Netanyahu said in the statement.

The club are likely to face a heavy penalty from Uefa, since the match was a qualifier for next season's Uefa Europa League.

A Uefa spokesperson told Newsweek that an official match report had not yet been filed and that any disciplinary proceedings would likely open next week.

Last night's game was delayed by several minutes as Beitar fans launched dozens of fireworks, flares and smokebombs onto the pitch.

A sports journalist on the scene reported that fans of the Israeli side were also involved in skirmishes outside the ground, which resulted in one Charleroi fan being attacked with a knife. Beitar officials claimed that some Charleroi fans made a Nazi salute towards their fans.

Following last night's events, Beitar's owner, Eli Tabib, announced he is putting the club up for sale and was "ashamed" by the behaviour of the fans.

The club's home city Jerusalem has a 40% Arab population and it is against Israeli employment law to discriminate on the basis of race or religion. Despite this, Beitar have never employed an Arab player, an issue raised by the Palestinian FA in a withdrawn complaint to Fifa that requested the Israeli FA was suspended from world football.

Beitar has a notorious hardcore fanbase known as La Familia, who often apply pressure to the club's hierarchy. After Beitar signed two Chechen Muslim players in 2013, the club's offices were torched in an apparent retaliation attack.

They are due to play the second leg of their qualifying match against Charleroi at home next week. Israeli sports minister Miri Regev said that security would be tightened for the match and that violent fans should be banned from attending.

Israeli fans face arrest over violence at Belgian match |