A gutted home in Zichron Ya’acov
After more than 200 wildfires had been raging across Israel for two days, rekindled by high winds as soon as firefighters controlled the flames, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu Wednesday night, Nov. 23, confirmed evidence of arson in several places.Public Security Minister Gilead Erdan and police commissioner Roni Alsheikh decided to post soldiers, police and border guards in open areas around towns, villages and communities to secure them against further arson attacks and catch the perpetrators.
Police are investigating the wholesale outbreaks of wildfire in widely separate spots, causing extensive damage to homes and buildings. Thousands of people had fled their homes ahead of the flames that consumed all their possessions in central and eastern Israel. Whole streets and neighborhoods up and down the country have been destroyed. Damage is initially estimated at NIS.50 million ($12m).
Responding to Israel’s appeal, Russia, Croatia, Italy, Greece and Cyprus will be sending over six planes to support Israel’s own fleet of aerial firefighters. The first are due to land Thursday morning.
Israel has asked Greece, Cyprus, Italy and Turkey for extra planes to reinforce Israel’s own fleet of aerial firefighter planes. The gusty winds and exceptionally dry weather have kept sparks flying and reignited the blaze in many places after it was brought under control. They are forecast to continue up until the weekend.
Zichron Yaacov, south of Haifa, was the first victim. An entire neighborhood of small homes in a wooded area was burned to the ground. Dolev, 6km north of Ramallah, was evacuated as homes were enveloped in flames. There, surveillance cameras recorded the arsonists at work. Nataf, a small community, west of Jerusalem, was emptied as buildings caught fire.
Wednesday night, flames shot into the sky from Reut, between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. In western Galilee, a forest fire reached the small community of Gilon and forced its evacuation. Tuesday night, 13 bush fires were extinguished in northern Israel.
During the day, the IDF Home Front called up reservists to back up the fire brigades and police who are operating at full stretch up and down the country.
While the hot, dry winds swept across the entire region this week, Israel is the only country to have been plagued by nationwide wildfires. Across the Green Line, not a single Palestinian town or village was affected. The suspicion of organized arson under intense investigation has fallen first and foremost on Palestinian extremists, who may have come up with a new form of terror, which is easy for the culprit to escape undetected.