An Israeli policeman aids  basketball steward |
Yoav Glitzenstein after a home made firecracker
exploded in his hand in Jerusalem  [AFP]

A steward has been severely injured as a firecracker was let off on the sidelines of an Israeli basketball game.

The explosion, which tore off three of the guard’s fingers, took place at the Malha arena during a televised match between club teams Hapoel Jerusalem and Hapoel Holon and sent up a cloud of dust and smoke inside the crowded arena.

"Hapoel Jerusalem will not play basketball again until those who are guilty are found," club chairman Danny Klein said following the incident.

"If we find out that the guilty party is a Hapoel fan, as far as I am concerned, the team will be dismantled. I will quit."

With a minute and a half remaining in the match, a fan standing above the Amir section in Malha threw the fire cracker onto the floor, prompting the guard to run, scoop up the explosive and jump on it to absorb the blast in front of the Holon bench.

The explosion was heard throughout the hall and chaos erupted as players, fans and security personnel ran in every direction.

Medical teams arrived at the scene in to tended to the injured, which included fans.

Police arrested four Hapoel Holon fans Monday morning on suspicion of involvement in the incident.

Israeli sport is experiencing a surge in crowd troubles.

Crowd troubles continue

Last week, the Israeli Football Association banned fans of club team Beitar Jerusalem from two home matches after they booed through a minute's silence in memory of assassinated prime minister Yitzhak Rabin.

Hundreds of fans booed and a few even sang songs praising his murder by Yigal Amir, a Jewish extremist who was jailed for life after he shot Rabin three times in the back following a Tel Aviv peace rally on November 4, 1995.

The club is renowned for its right-wing sympathies, Beitar Jerusalem and owned by Israeli-Russian billionaire Arkady Gaydamak.

Gaydamak is not free from controversy himself.

An international arrest warrant has been issued by the French government for the 55 year old and he is wanted for questioning in connection with illegal arms smuggling during the Angolan civil war.

His son, Alexandre, is the owner of English Premiership club Portsmouth.

Source: Agencies