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Football | International

Beitar Jerusalem © Action Images

Police boost security for Jerusalem match



Jerusalem police deployed hundreds of forces on Tuesday to secure a flashpoint football match between an Arab-Israeli team and Beitar Jerusalem, a club known for its hard core of anti-Arab fans.

"We're deploying extra police officers in and around Jerusalem and outside the stadium," police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said.

Beitar had initially sought to have its clash with Umm al-Fahm played before an empty stadium to avoid potential clashes between its supporters and fans of the Arab-Israeli side which is based in a Galilee town of the same name.

"The match will go ahead as planned in the presence of the respective fans of the two teams," Rosenfeld said.

"Hundreds of police officers will be deployed inside and outside the stadium... including special anti-riot units," he added.

The match between Beitar and Maccabi Umm al-Fahm comes after the Jerusalem club was plunged into turmoil by reports its owner was planning to sign two Muslim Chechen players.

The news enraged some of the club's fans, who chanted racist anti-Arab slogans and waved signs reading "Beitar – pure forever" during a game last Saturday.

After the match, police arrested three Beitar fans for incitement to racism, and owner Russian-Israeli owner Arkady Gaydamak insisted the signing would go ahead, saying the opposition came from a small minority of supporters.

Beitar has earned a reputation for a hard core of anti-Arab fans, with many of its supporters insistent that the team should never hire an Arab player.

The club has been punished in the past for the behaviour of its fans.

In March last year, 16 Beitar supporters were arrested after they surged into Jerusalem's main shopping mall screaming "Death to Arabs!" following a match.

Footage of the incident, which was widely covered by the local press, showed the fans spitting on Arab women in the mall and then assaulting Arab men who tried to intervene.

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