Police seized 12 blinding stun grenades, 1 kilogram of explosives, two gas grenades, and 19 improvised grenades among other materials.
ugh north and south Israel on Monday night, arresting 47 members of the soccer fan club "La Familia” on suspicion of illegal weapons trafficking and intention to bring pyrotechnics to soccer games. Overall, 56 persons were arrested, some on the suspicion of drug trafficking, with more arrests expected.
The arrests were made possible by a six-month-long undercover operation, conducted under the Coastal District, in which an undercover agent infiltrated the La Familia soccer club.
Along with the arrests, police seized 12 blinding stun grenades, 1 kilogram of explosives, two gas grenades, and 19 improvised grenades among other materials.
The Coastal Division police spokesman told The Jerusalem Post that the arrests made significant headway into combating violence in sports, however, he was clear to state that the arrests do not characterize the majority of the La Familia fan club. "These arrests come from a violent subgroup of La Famila called ‘Hakometz’, they are a minority and do not represent La Familia,” he stated.
According to a police statement this investigation reflects the police’s ability to successfully conduct nation-wide investigations. "Police activities tonight bring to the fore the extraction capabilities of the Israeli Police and the large-scale ability to collect evidence and investigate suspects throughout the country,” stated the Police Spokesperson Unit.
Chairman of the Sports Lobby MK Yoel Razvozov congratulated the police in their efforts to "isolate the extreme fans” and stated that these arrests are for the good of the Beitar team and fans. "The arrest of this radical group will strengthen the Beitar Jerusalem fans that suffered for years from their behavior,” he stated.
Public Security and Strategic Affairs Minister Gilad Erdan praised the police on his Twitter page for conducting a "complex operation” that sought to combat violence in sports.
Liran Ohayon, a lawyer representing one of the suspects told Channel 2 News that his client has been wrongly accused. "My client is not connected to the events of violence and weapons that the police attributed to him. I am sure that at the end of the day the court will be convinced that my client's version is correct,” he stated.
Beitar Jerusalem’s fan club, La Familia, has gained notoriety for racist chants and reoccurring incidents of violence. In October 2015, three suspects reputedly linked to the La Familia fan club were arrested in connection to a violent attack on a Hapoel Tel Aviv fan, who was seriously injured after being hit in the head with a hammer.
In July 2015, members of the La Familia fan club threw dozens of incendiary devices
onto the pitch during a Europa League match. The Union of European Football Associations fined Beitar 95,000 Euros as a result and forced a 500-seat closure of the Beitar stadium during the subsequent UEFA competition match.
Violence at soccer matches has become an issue of national concern in Israel. Last week Culture and Sport Minister Miri Regev and Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan agreed to fund a new police unit which will combat crime at sporting events beginning with the upcoming soccer season. The unit will gather intelligence centering on the causes of violence and incitement at sporting events and bring indictments against suspected offenders.