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Israel vows probe after football ‘riot’ in Belgium

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu promised Friday a probe into a football team noted for racism against Arabs after supporters rioted at a match in Belgium over alleged anti-Jewish taunts.

Beitar Jerusalem owner Eli Tabib announced after the Thursday Europa League match was halted in Charleroi that he was “ashamed” by the conduct of an “extremist group of fans” and intended to sell the team.

Beitar is notorious for having a core of supporters known for their racist and anti-Arab sentiments, and is the only team in the Israeli league that has never had an Arab player.

Thursday’s match was halted after Beitar fans threw smoke flares onto the pitch, reportedly after Charleroi supporters taunted them with Nazi salutes and anti-Semitic and anti-Israeli chants.

And Charleroi’s goalkeeper was struck in the head by what Belgium press reports said was a bolt thrown by Beitar fans.

There were no arrests, during or after the match which Beitar lost 5-1.

Netanyahu said he had spoken with Internal Security Minister Gilad Erdan and that the two had agreed to conduct an inquiry into “possible action against the fans who rioted”.

“It is good that the decisive majority of Beitar fans immediately condemned the behaviour of that same small group,” Netanyahu said in a statement.

Tabib late on Thursday that he was ashamed of the conduct of the “extremist group of fans, which to me aren’t even supporters of the team”, and announced he was ending all involvement in Israeli sports and selling Beitar.

He also apologised to Charleroi’s owner and its goalkeeper immediately after the game, a Beitar spokesman told AFP.

The return match between the teams is due to take place in Jerusalem on Thursday.