Israeli authorities are investigating the origin of what they believe is a wave of arson attacks across the country as firefighters work to bring several fires under control, including a massive series of blazes in the port city of Haifa, where at least 75,000 people have been evacuated.
Israel police chief Roni Alsheich said that some of the more than 220 fires that have broken out were arson, and appeared to while others were not, and that investigations are continuing. “It’s likely that there is a nationalist motive in some of the arson cases,” he told reporters. Alsheich also confirmed that some arrests have been made. Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan told Army Radio that 50 percent of these fires were caused by repeated arson.
According to Israel Channel 2 analyst Ehud Yaari, arrests have already been made both in Israel and the Palestinian Territories related to the arson attacks.
“Every flame caused by arson or incitement to arson is terrorism, and we will treat it as such,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told reporters in Haifa. “Anyone who tries to set fire to parts of Israel will be punished to the full extent of the law.”
The fires began three days ago with major blazes in the Jerusalem hills outside the capital, and in Zichron Yaakov where dozens of homes were damaged or destroyed. High winds have been fanning the flames, and dry, windy weather is expected to continue for several more days.
The IDF has mobilized two battalions of soldiers to assist firefighters and police in dozens of locations in the center and north of Israel. At least 36 people have been treated for injuries, the Magen David Adom rescue service stated. “We’re in a state of war,” Haifa fire service spokesman Uri Chibutro told Channel 2.
As news of the fire reached social media, some anti-Israel activists expressed their pleasure using the Arabic Twitter hashtag #Israelisburning. “For the first time I feel that fire is source of happiness…eventually become evening fire on Israel, and smoke becomes perfume on Palestine,” one user wrote.
The posters included Dubai’s head of General Security, Lt. Gen. Dhahi Khalfan Tamim, who led an investigation into the assassination of Mahmoud Al-Mabhouh, a senior Hamas commander, in a Dubai hotel. “Israel banned the muezzin and caught on fire. Blessed be God,” he wrote on Twitter in response to the blazes.
Some Hamas-affiliated social media pages also posted videos of Palestinians celebrating the news, including with songs like “Catching Fire,” Ynet reported.
However, at least eight countries have offered to send water bombers and other firefighting equipment to help Israel, including from Russia and even Turkey, who recently reestablished full diplomatic ties with the Jewish state. Several planes are already in the skies flying repeated sorties to help extinguish the infernos.
[Photo: @BreakingNLive / Twitter]