Fires in Israel continue to rage, incinerating homes and causing injuries

Wildfires continue to tear across central and northern Israel forcing tens of thousands of residents to flee their homes, marking the fifth day that the Jewish state is battling the fires, fueled by unseasonably dry weather. A lack of rain combined with very dry air and strong easterly winds have spread the fires this week, which initially erupted in a forest near Jerusalem, across the center and north of the country, as well as parts of the West Bank. Hundreds of homes have been damaged or destroyed but no deaths or serious injuries have been reported. “As you see, the darkness came down. And we are still in the process of trying to extinguish the fire which is still going on. It is a first time in the history of the city that in very many positions, the fire broke off and caused damage. And thank God it didn’t cause damage by people, the people did not get hurt. Only property,” said Yona Yahav, Haifa city mayor.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who visited a special HQ set-up in the northern city of Haifa to coordinate the nationwide operation to battle the flames, stressed it was unclear how long it would take to subdue the fires raging across the country, as local weather forecasters have said the tinder-dry conditions and strong winds are set to continue for several days, with little prospect of normal seasonal precipitation arriving. “We don’t know how long this thing will last, we need to understand that the weather forecasts that it will remain the same until Tuesday, but we already experienced during the Carmel fire, that it might last much longer. And that is why we are taking measures, including re-supplying, in order to deal with it for a longer period of time,” said Netanyahu.

Police said they strongly believe the cause of the fires to be arson, as a nationwide investigation has been launched. “At the moment we are investigating how the fires began, there is, we strongly believe that the fires could’ve been started by individuals who fled the scenes. There are number of reports that we’ve received, and therefore, at the moment we continuing to both put out the flames, deal with the major situation which is taking place in and around the city of Haifa, with hundreds of police officers and thousands of residents that have been evacuated to four major areas including the football stadium and other public buildings,” said Micky Rosenfeld, Israel police Spokesman.

Internal Security Minister Gilad Erdan referred to the police investigation, noting that it was already clear that a good amount of the fires were caused by arson and that there have already been a small number of arrests. “Today it is quite clear that a good amount of the fires were caused by arson and as the Prime Minister said there is a new phenomenon of arson terrorism.” / “There have been a small number of arrests. The police has no intention of giving out further details, neither does the fire and rescue authority, because those investigations are being handled jointly, in order not to expose what information we have and not to harm those investigations and not say what the police already know,” said Gilad Erdan, Internal Security Minister.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stressed, during his joint press conference with the interior security minister, that any fire caused by arson would be considered as “terrorism”, emphasizing that Israel’s security services will act accordingly. “I want to tell you in the most explicit way. Each and every fire caused by arson or from incitement to arson, said Netanyahu who also took the opportunity to thank several countries that have sent aircrafts to join in efforts to quell the fires. “I would like to thank the leaders of Russia, Greece, Italy, Cyprus, Croatia and Turkey that already responded and sent planes,” added Bibi. Meanwhile, residents of the northern city of Haifa came back to check on their homes this morning, after some of the fires in residential neighborhoods were subdued. “My mother’s house just burned, completely. It will probably be demolished. As you can see these cracks are total lost, showing that the house is total lost. And that is it. The whole life of my mother, we were living here for more than 35 years. And that is it,” said Nati Teslar, Haifa Resident. “My mother lives here and yesterday when we heard that there is fire here we went away. And about midnight we came back and we saw all this mess, all the albums here that is the memory of my parents are burnt out. And that is all,” said Michal Zamir, Haifa Resident.