Two Beitar Jerusalem soccer fans were arrested Sunday on suspicion of being involved in an attack Saturday that left a Hapoel Tel Aviv fan seriously wounded.
The police are treating the case as attempted murder. The condition of the wounded fan, 32, remains serious.
The well-known fan was attacked in Tel Aviv's Florentin neighborhood after returning from a Hapoel Tel Aviv game in Kfar Sava. Police suspect that Beitar fans ambushed Hapoel fans after they alighted from a bus from the Ultras organization next to a storage facility in South Tel Aviv, in which they store equipment.
A massive skirmish apparently broke out, during which Beitar fans allegedly struck the Hapoel fan with a hammer. The fan, suffering from serious head wounds, was evacuated to Tel Aviv's Ichilov Hospital, where he underwent an operation. Another youth was lightly wounded.
Police officials initially thought that the method and seriousness of the incident suggested a criminal attack. However, an investigation led to the conclusion that the attack was related to the victims' identity as Hapoel Tel Aviv fans.
"Around 8:00 P.M., a report was received of a fracas between groups of fans in Tel Aviv's Florentin neighborhood, not far from Bloomfield Stadium," the police stated. "Police forces were called to the area and broke up the quarrel."
Hapoel Tel Aviv commented: "The team practice planned for this morning was canceled because of the shock the club is in after the violent attack against team fans last night. When the players arrived at the training ground, they were briefed on the details of the incident and about the serious condition of the fan, who underwent a complex operation that took all night." The team expressed concern for the fan's state of health.
Player and team representatives visited the ER and expressed their support to the wounded fan's family.
"We came to be with the family of the fan who was attacked solely because he is a Hapoel Tel Aviv fan," said Sagiv Yehezkel, who visited the hospital. "We are all in shock now," he said. "What happened yesterday is a most serious incident that should never happen in soccer or anything."
The Israel Football Association commented: "The IFA roundly condemns the serious, violent criminal attack on a Hapoel Tel Aviv fan last night. The association will do all in its ability, in full cooperation law enforcement authorities, to rein in the plague of violence threatening Israeli soccer and Israeli society. We call on lovers of the game to respect the laws, avoid any violent act and pay heed to mutual responsibility that will ensure peace for all fans. There is no reason in the world that a soccer fan won't return in one piece to his home after a game of his beloved team."
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