The offices of Israeli football club Beitar Jerusalem have been
damaged by fire in a suspected arson attack. The blaze came a day
after four fans were charged over racist chanting against the
club's recruitment of Muslim players.
No-one was hurt in the blaze but the club's administrative offices
suffered extensive damage, police said. Last month Beitar
Jerusalem signed two Chechen players, breaking a tradition of not
signing Arabs or Muslims.
The signing of Zaur Sadaev and Gabriel
Kadiev - both Muslims - prompted some fans to make racist chants
and display anti-Muslim banners at a league match. Israeli Prime
Minister Benjamin Netanyahu condemned the apparent arson attack as
Chechen players head to scandal-hit Israeli club
Reports that the two Terek Grozny players were to sign for Beitar
Jerusalem, the only one of Israel's top clubs to have never
fielded an Arab player, led to displays of anti-Muslim sentiment
at a match Saturday and calls for Beitar »
"We must not accept such racist behavior," he said.
"The Jewish People, which has suffered boycotts and persecution,
should be a light unto other nations".
Jerusalem mayor Nir Barakat said those responsible were "not fans
but criminals". Israeli police have promised to use all means at
their disposal - including the use of undercover officers - to
tackle racism at the Premier League club.
Beitar Jerusalem were
the only leading club in Israel never to have signed Arab players
because of pressure from fans. Arab footballers feature
prominently in other top teams and have long been included in the
Israeli national side.