American Supertanker, Egyptian helicopters land in Israel to battle raging fires
The wave of wildfires raging across Israel carried on into a fourth day on Friday, with new blazes reported in Jerusalem area as firefighters battled against strong winds and dry conditions to extinguish flames.
While some 80,000 residents of Haifa returned to their homes after fires engulfed the city on Thursday, residents of Jerusalem hills communities including Beit Meir, Kibbutz Ma'ale Hachamisha, and Nataf were evacuated as a massive fire approached houses.
Investigators were examining suspicions that a blaze near Kibbutz Ma'ale Hachamisha and Nataf Friday afternoon was sparked by a Molotov cocktail.
Israel's defense establishment has strengthened convictions that some of the hundreds of wildfires burning since Wednesday have been caused by systematic arson, that in some cases was "nationalistically motivated."
The Shin Bet security service confirmed that it was investigating the conflagrations that have forced tens of thousands to evacuate, but said it was too soon to reach any conclusions.
Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan and Police Chief Ronnie Alshich have moved to boost security as deterrence to potential arsonists, ordering hundreds of police officers and soldiers to open spaces near villages and towns along the West Bank green line.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that "every arson is a terror attack," as Erdan warned that Israel needs to prepare itself to face a new type of terror.
Thousands of Israelis were forced from their homes as flames encroached on residential areas, major roadways, and vital infrastructure, including installations of the Israel Electric Company.
Egypt, Jordan, Turkey, the United States, France, the United Kingdom, Greece, Cyprus, Italy, Croatia, Russia, and the Palestinian Authority have sent planes, helicopters, trucks, and ground crews to assist the some 250 Israeli firefighters and soldiers who have been working for days to extinguish fires in areas surrounding Beit Shemesh, Modi'in, and Jerusalem, as well as in Haifa, Hadera, Zichron Yaakov, Umm al-Fachm, Lachish, Nesher, the Etzion settlement bloc, and outside the northern town of Kfar Vradim.
"There have been a number of discoveries in the last few hours and we know who the criminals are," he said.
He also says he has ordered the Supertanker firefighting aircraft, which will take 24 hours to arrive and will be used "in an extreme circumstance."
Greece 3 planes, 32 personnel. Cyprus 1 plane, 7 personnel. Turkey 2 planes, 8 personnel. Italy 2 planes, 13 personnel. Great Britain 1 helicopter, 5 personnel. Russia 2 planes, 19 personnel. Croatia 2 planes, 14 personnel.
More assistance from home front command is coming. Tankers and supplies from the home front command are coming as well.
Haifa is the focus right now."