Culture and Sports Minister Miri Regev on Monday condemned a violent attack on a Hapoel Tel Aviv soccer fan by a group of Beitar Jerusalem supporters on Saturday night and vowed to get tough on soccer hooliganism.
Israel Police arrested two Beitar Jerusalem fans on Sunday, on suspicion of involvement in Saturday’s attack. A third suspect handed himself in at Jaffa police station on Monday. Police will seek to extend his remand at Tel Aviv Magistrate’s Court today. The police are treating the case as attempted murder. The 32-year-old injured man — a well-known Hapoel fan — was allegedly attacked with a hammer in the Florentin neighborhood of Tel Aviv at 8 P.M. on Saturday. His condition remains serious.
“The place of criminals is far from sports fields and far from the streets. We will do everything necessary in order to reach them, with the intention of bring them to trial,” a police spokesperson said.
Regev commented on the incident for the first time Monday, after talking to the injured man’s family. She said she will demand that the public security minister and interim police chief bring the full weight of the law down on the attack’s perpetrators.
“I utterly condemn the horrifying attack in which the Hapoel Tel Aviv supporter was injured, and wish him a full recovery,” she said. “This is an extreme, worrying and unpardonable rise [in violence] that we have to stop immediately. We must uproot the ‘wild weeds’ and punish them severely.” In a reference to the ‘La Familia’ group of Beitar fans thought to be behind the attack, Regev added, “We will not allow such violent behavior to stain a complete fan club and endanger sport in Israel.”
After the police confirmed that Saturday’s attack was a confrontation between soccer fans, the minister also spoke with Hapoel Tel Aviv chairman Be’eri Ben Zeev and club owner Amir Kabiri. Kabiri had called for last night’s game between Bnei Sakhnin and Beitar Jerusalem to be canceled, saying, “There is no value to any soccer game as long as the La Familia organization operates within and around [Beitar].” His request was rejected, and the game went ahead as planned.
Kabiri added that Hapoel Tel Aviv will act to have La Familia outlawed. “This is an organization that acts using methods known to us from terrorist organizations, similar to the recent attacks we have witnessed in Israel. The feeling is that the blood of Hapoel Tel Aviv fans could be drawn. Hapoel Tel Aviv has set up a special team, including senior jurists, soccer and law-enforcement figures, with the intention of making La Familia illegal. I call on the law and enforcement authorities to complete the investigation and indict the criminals for attempted murder.”
A 22-year-old Beitar Jerusalem fan from Sderot was also arrested Monday in northern Israel, on suspicion that he headed a group planning to use violence at last night’s game (which Beitar won 3-1). The suspect was questioned and the police will seek to extend his remand at Nazareth Magistrate’s Court today.
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