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Thu. Nov 24, 2016 News from Israel

  • The city of Haifa in flames as fire broke in several locations; 60000 people evacuated; Police suspect Arson
  • Firefighters continue to battle fires across Israel
  • Netanyahu : Every single flame caused by arson is act of terror

As nighttime falls upon Israel on its 3rd day of raging fires, forces are still hard at work battling the fires throughout Israel. With 12 neighborhoods evacuated, Haifa is the main site of operations as 60,000 people were forced to leave their houses. About 100 people were treated for minor injuries mostly smoke inhalation . The wildfires were bolstered by high winds and dry conditions that have contributed to a spate of blazes across the country this week. However, Haifa is not the only location where the fires are still raging. The Israel Police is saying that "a wave of arson has befallen Israel" after 220 fires were reported during these past few days. The Israel Police has not ruled out arson as the cause of many of these fires. police said some arrests had been made in connection with the fires. During the day police and fire officials have refrained from commenting on which of the wildfires were caused by negligence, criminal arson or “nationalistically motivated” arson. Authorities believe that the fire at Shaar Hagai, close to the central Jerusalem-Tel Aviv highway was not caused by arson, but rather spread from a fire in the nearby community of Nataf that began on Tuesday. However, officials said that the blaze in Modiin that started earlier was likely the result of arson.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned that Israel would treat any deliberate fire-setting as an act of terror."Every flame caused by arson or incitement to arson is terrorism, and we will treat it as such,” Netanyahu told reporters in Haifa, where he was inspecting the fire damage to the city."Anyone who tries to set fire to parts of Israel will be punished to the full extent of the law,” he said.The prime minister also praised the massive effort by firefighters to put out fires, save lives, and urged the population to heed instructions from emergency personnel. Israel has requested the hire of an American supertanker to help fight the fires burning across the country.The tanker, which is a converted Boeing 747, will arrive within 24 hours. Firefighting planes from several countries were being brought in and the army’s Home Front Command called in soldiers and rescuers to aid with the effort.

The Israeli Arab community has come out strongly condemning the fires. Ayman Odeh, head of the Joint Arab List Knesset faction, hit back at those suggesting that fires raging across the country had been intentionally set by non-Jews."To my regret, someone decided to exploit this dreadful situation to incite and to lash out at an entire community,” Odeh said.“Whoever loves our homeland has to focus right now on putting out the fires and helping the injured and not on fanning hate.” MK Ahmed Tibi was quick to speak out, questioning why the community automatically points a finger of blame at Palestinians. Tibi added that in the Carmel fire disaster a few years ago the security establishment suspected it was arson and following an investigation it was concluded that it was negligence.

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