Sources: Soccer riot probe finds fans at fault

Dichter: Police were dragged into this situation of stadium security against their will.

Betar crush 2 (photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
Betar crush 2
(photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
After almost a week of work, Israel Police Cmdr. Avi Ben-Hemmo on Monday evening submitted his report on the police's management of the stampede at Jerusalem's Teddy Stadium that left two fans seriously injured last week. Although the findings of the probe will remain behind closed doors until Police Chief Insp.-Gen. David Cohen reviews them and makes his recommendations, sources close to the investigation indicated Monday night that a large chunk of the responsibility lay with the fans rather than with the police. Cohen appointed Ben-Hemmo one week ago Monday to lead the probe examining how police handled the situation at the stadium, where Betar Jerusalem fans trampled each other as they tried to storm the field after the game. The probe's findings are expected to include negative assessment of Moriya Subdistrict Commander Asst.-Cmdr. Shuki Ziso's performance, but not to such a degree that he would be forced to step down. The probe also assessed Jerusalem District Chief Cmdr. Ilan Franco's decision-making, but barring a few reprimanding notes, the allegations against the chief will probably be mild. The tone of the report was reflected in comments by Public Security Minister Avi Dichter, who said Monday that "out of a hundred decisions that [Franco] makes in a day, he is allowed to be wrong in one of them." "The police were dragged into this situation of stadium security against their will," Dichter added, explaining that the problem would be better addressed by the creation of an "event commander" whose position would include facilitating among all relevant bodies, including stadium management, fans, and emergency responders. A source close to the probe committee members said that in most of the parameters the report checked, the police's behavior was found to be acceptable. The report will also likely find that the fans' behavior was more to blame for the incident than any other single factor. Tapes from the last 10 minutes of the match in which Betar beat Hapoel Petah Tikva showed that a large tide of fans had already begun to descend toward the field from higher rows. Eventually, fans were crushed as the crowd pushed against the security fences separating the stands from the field. Police have been criticized for failing to open the gates to allow the fans onto the pitch and release the pressure on those trapped against the fences. Although Franco arrived on the scene after the scramble began, he took responsibility for the delay in the decision to open the gates. The members of the probe committee spent time examining the issue of gates at soccer stadiums in general, and determined that the decision on whether or not to open gates at stadiums would rest conclusively with the district commander.