Fires rage near jerusalem as Israel arrests arson suspects

Fires rage near jerusalem as Israel arrests arson suspects

25 November 2016

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Israel — Large brush fires swept across hills outside Jerusalem, after Israeli police detained arson suspects following days of severe blazes in the country.

Residents of towns in the Jerusalem Mountains were evacuated on Friday while dozens of houses were burned down. Israel accepted offers of firefighting help from Egypt and Jordan and police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld tweeted a picture of Palestinian firefighters working alongside their Israeli counterparts in the city of Haifa.

Fires have forced tens of thousands of Israelis from their homes in the past four days, with officials saying many began almost simultaneously and were probably due to arson. Israeli police chief Roni Alsheich on Thursday said that where arson was the cause, it was likely “nationalist,” a phrase authorities use to describe attacks by Arabs. Police said they have arrested 13 people for suspected arson or incitement to start fires.

While several blazes are now largely under control, firefighters fear that strong winds could reignite them. The fires are the worst to hit Israel since 2010 when 42 people died in a forest region south of Haifa.

“I’ve accepted the offer of help in putting out the fires from Egypt and Jordan,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Twitter. “Egypt will send two firefighting helicopters and Jordan will send fire trucks.”

They will join vehicles sent by the Palestinian Authority and aircraft from Russia, Cyprus, Turkey, Croatia and Greece already battling the flames. A massive Supertanker firefighting plane from the U.S. arrived late on Friday, according to Channel 2.

Fires that spread through the northern port city of Haifa are apparently “acts of terrorism,” and the government will compensate residents for loss of property, Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon said.

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