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November 23, 2016 8:34 pm

Israeli Police Bolster Presence in Outdoor Open Areas, Amid Suspicions Arson Is Fueling Current Wave of Wildfires

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Israeli firefighting planes battle a blaze. Photo: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Facebook page.

Israeli firefighting planes battle a blaze. Photo: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Facebook page.

Israeli police are significantly bolstering their presence in fire-prone outdoor open areas amid suspicions that some of the blazes currently sweeping across parts of the country were sparked by intentional acts of arson, the Hebrew news site Walla reported on Wednesday.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke by telephone earlier in the day with Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic to ask for their countries’ assistance in fighting the forest fires in central and northern Israel. According to Netanyahu’s office, the Greek and Croatian leaders agreed to dispatch firefighting aircraft to Israel “as soon as possible.”

Media reports said planes were also expected to arrive from Russia, Italy, Cyprus and potentially Turkey to bolster Israel’s own aerial firefighting fleet.

Netanyahu — joined by Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan and Israel Police chief Roni Alsheikh — visited a forward firefighting command center near Zichron Yaakov on Wednesday.

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Dozens of homes have been damaged by fires in recent days in Israel, but no deaths or serious injuries have occurred.

The fires were expected to get worse on Thursday, with high winds and dry conditions in the forecast.

Over the years, as reported by The Algemeiner, Israel has faced a recurring problem of fires set deliberately by members of its Arab population.

In a tweet published on Wednesday, Education Minister Naftali Bennett — head of the right-wing Habayit Hayehudi party — hinted at this phenomenon, saying, “Only those who the land doesn’t belong to are capable of burning it.”

Earlier on Wednesday, Likud MK Oren Hazan tweeted, “If it turns out the giant fires raging right now were the result of intentional arson, the arsonists must be caught, brought to justice and treated like terrorists who committed attacks.”

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