Two men were arrested on Tuesday morning in connection with the arson that took place earlier this month at the offices of the Beitar Jerusalem soccer club.
Both suspects are members of Beitar Jerusalem’s hardcore fanclub La Familia, and their detention brings the total number of arrests in the case to nine. A police spokesman said the seven suspects taken into custody last week were thought to be accomplices, while the two arrested on Tuesday were suspected of actually setting the blaze.
One of the two men arrested on Tuesday confessed to his role in the arson. He reenacted the incident for police and implicated the second suspect, who was arrested later in the morning. Both men, who are in their 20s, were in Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court on Tuesday afternoon for a remand hearing.
According to firefighters, the blaze was likely started by a Molotov cocktail thrown into the office of club steward Meir Harush, next to the team’s training grounds. There were no injuries, but serious damage was caused to the building, and trophies and club memorabilia were destroyed.
At the time, Beitar said the incident crossed “a red line when it comes to the violence and racism that we’re dealing with.”
Extremist nationalist fans of Beitar have been explicit in their deep opposition to the signing of two Chechen players who are Muslim, Zaur Sadayev and Gabriel Kadiev.
Three weeks ago, fans drew criticism for holding up a banner reading “Beitar forever pure” and chanting racist slogans.
The arson on February 8 caused serious damage to a collection of team memorabilia. Earlier that week, the Jerusalem District Attorney charged three fans with racial incitement, after the supporters, aged 22 to 24, allegedly shouted chants including “Death to Arabs” and “May your village burn” during a late January match against Bnei Yehuda Tel Aviv in the capital. Both incidents were condemned by the team management and by politicians across the political spectrum.
Two days after its office was torched, amid very tight security at Jerusalem’s Teddy Stadium, Beitar Jerusalem played a high-tension match against Arab squad Bnei Sakhnin.
The game was completed without major violence, though about 70 fans were kicked out of the stadium in the course of the evening. Half of those excluded were Beitar fans banned for racist and incitefing chants against the team and its management; the other half were Sakhnin fans, for alleged public disturbances.