Fans of Beitar Jerusalem shout slogans during a match against Bnei Sakhnin as part of the Israeli Premier League.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Friday condemned "a small group of Beitar Jerusalem fans" who "besmirched an entire fan base and harmed the country's image" after taking part in alleged rioting in Belgium.
Netanyahu released a statement on Friday after huddling with Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan in order to determine ways in which the state will prosecute Beitar fans who hurled flares and engaged in fisticuffs with locals in Belgium before and during a soccer match.
Police and customs agents at Ben-Gurion Airport in Lod beefed up their forces on Friday as they awaited the arrival of hundreds of Beitar Jerusalem soccer fans on Friday who are alleged to have caused a number of disturbances in Belgium.
Beitar Jerusalem's 5-1 loss to Sporting Charleroi on Thursday had to be delayed by three minutes at the start after Jerusalem fans threw multiple flares onto the pitch and ended with the Charleroi goalkeeper laying on the grass with his head in his hands after being struck by an object which seemed to have come from the Beitar stand right behind his goal.
The Beitar supporters were also involved in several skirmishes outside the stadium ahead of the encounter and the club is likely to be punished by UEFA in the coming weeks.
Beitar’s Europa League campaign is set to come to a close next week following the humbling defeat to Charleroi in the first leg of the second qualifying round in Belgium.
"It is good that the absolute majority of Beitar Jerusalem fans immediately condemned the behavior of that small group of patrons," Netanyahu said. "We will not allow them to besmirch an entire fan base and to harm the country's image."
The acting police commissioner announced Friday that the Jerusalem District Police will handle the investigation in concert with authorities in Belgium. Police said that a number of fans were questioned upon landing at Ben-Gurion from various flights that originated in Europe, but no more details were provided.
A legal official told The Jerusalem Post
's corporate sister network Sport1 television on Friday that despite the public outrage over the fans' behavior, the police have no legal grounds to make any arrests.
"The attorney general is the only one authorized to order criminal investigations against an Israeli alleged to have broken the law in a foreign country," the source told Sport1.
Clause 9 of the state criminal statute states: "There is to be no trial of anyone suspected of crimes committed abroad unless the attorney general...authorizes it in writing in the event that he sees it in the public interest."Allon Sinai contributed to this report. Any connection between the spectators seen in the photograph and those mentioned in the article is purely coincidental.