US firefighters arrive in Israel as new blazes sparked
Naseeb Safadi/ i24news
A crew of firefighters from the United States arrived at Ben Gurion airport Sunday morning as three news blazes erupted six days into a wave of fires burning throughout the country, half of which are suspected to have been ignited by arsonists in some cases with nationalistic motives.
Fire crews and planes responded to a large blaze that has erupted near the coastal city of Hadera, as new flare ups in the village of Nataf have drawn renewed focus. In the south another fire has started in the Haruvit forest near the community of Kiryat Malachai. Another fire broke out near the West Bank settlement of Oranit, but firefighters said they were able to get it under control.
The new fires sprung up shortly after fire and rescue service spokesman Yoram Levy said that all active fires had been extinguished.
Police have detained at least 37 people suspected of arson. Israeli authorities suspect that some of the fires may have been of criminal origin and some linked to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Friday there was "no doubt" some of the fires had been deliberate and vowed that those responsible would be brought to justice
"There is a price to pay for the crimes committed, there is a price to pay for arson terrorism," he said.
Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan told Israel's Channel 2 that anyone who sets a fire for politically motivated reasons will have their home demolished, as the State does with the homes of other terrorists.
If the State “can destroy the homes of terrorists who have shot or stabbed [Israelis], then we can demolish the homes of those who committed arson for nationalistic motives; there is no difference,” he said.
Arab Israeli leaders have argued that their community, which makes up about 17.5 percent of the country's population, is as much affected by the fires as Jews.
It is estimated the fires have caused hundreds of millions of shekels in damage. In Haifa alone, more than 1,600 people have been left homeless with 527 apartments and 77 buildings uninhabitable, according to a Ynet tally.
Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon has authorized grants of 2,500 NIS ($645) for each individual who is unable to return to their home due to fire damage.
The size of the areas burned could be as high as 130,000 dunams (32,000 acres), the Times of Israel reports, including 30,000 dunams (7,400 acres) of national parks and 28,000 dunams (6,900 acres) in Haifa.
President Reuvin Rivlin visited the Jerusalem Hills community of Nataf, which has been the scene of two severe fires over the past week, and spoke with firefighters from around the world who have joined efforts to control the fires.
"Terrorism is terrorism wherever it is and will be treated extent of the law," he added.
"Proposals for house demolitions and denial of citizenship are both hostile and inciting," she says adding that such proposals "de-legitimize the public sector and are just as inciteful as the calls inspiring the arsonists.
"There are no active sites left," fire and rescue service spokesman Yoram Levy told AFP. "Since last night it's pretty calm, we have no new activity."
"Those who want to burn houses or entire communities must take into account that his home would be destroyed before he makes the decision."