Report: ‘Arson Terrorism’ Behind at Least 60% of Fires Raging Across Israel
Israeli news outlets reported on Thursday that arson was behind at least 60 percent of the fires that continue to rage across the country for the third day in a row.
Israel Police Commissioner Roni Alsheikh confirmed this while responding to reporters’ questions at the site of one of the dozens of hotspots in the north and center of the Jewish state, where flames continue to erupt, as firefighters work around the clock to extinguish those already started and rush to the scene of each new one as it occurs.
Alsheikh said that though the first fire, which ignited on Tuesday, may have been caused by negligent behavior — and spread quickly because of the unseasonably hot, dry and windy weather — there now appears to be some kind of concerted “nationalistically motivated” effort to keep the blazes going.
Due to what is now being called “arson terrorism,” he said, the Shin Bet internal security services have been called in to investigate. Without being specific, the police chief said that a number of suspects have been detained for questioning.
IDF troops have been called in to help, as well as forces from the Home Front Command.
Haifa has been the hardest-hit city, with tens of thousands of residents evacuated from their homes, and the University of Haifa and The Technion-Israel Institute of Technology temporarily shut down. Dozens of people, mostly the elderly, have been hospitalized for smoke inhalation.
Declaring a state a emergency, the Israel Electric Corporation requested permission to impose a blackout on the area, to prevent electrical fires. Roads and highways from the north to the center were thus stopped-up with bumper-to-bumper traffic, as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu prepared to convene an emergency meeting with Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan to discuss further measures to combat what media outlets are suggesting is a new wave of “lone-wolf” Palestinian violence — on the heels of the “knife intifada” that began a year ago in September, and has been characterized by stabbing, car-ramming and other attacks on Israeli soldiers, police and civilians.
On Thursday, Netanyahu spoke to Russian President Vladimir Putin, who said he would immediately send Israel two firefighting planes. Turkey also offered to send help — joining Greece, Italy, Croatia and Cyprus — to combat the fires.
As The Algemeiner reported in the summer of 2013, a spate of arson attacks caused police and fire department officials to believe the acts were politically motivated — and inspired by the 2010 Mount Carmel forest fire. Though that fire — which claimed the lives of 44 people, including the chief of the Haifa police department — was ignited by a teenager who had been smoking a hookah pipe and did not extinguish the coals properly.
Nevertheless, the Carmel fire was followed by a wave of arson attacks in Israel and the West bank. These blazes were relatively small and were extinguished within hours.
Watch the live feed of the fires and attempts to extinguish them on Israel’s Channel 10 below: