Israel Fire Updates: Firefighters Go Back to Normal, After Over 1,700 Fires in 8 Days

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Aerial footage of the aftermath of fires in Nataf, near JerusalemCredit: Elements
Updates

Israel tax authority recognizes fires as politically motivated arson, to offer compensation

The Israel Tax authority announced Tuesday that it would recognize some of the fires that spread across Israel as politically motivated arson, paving the way for victims in those areas to receive compensation for lost property and damages.

The tax authority said that its consideration was based on information from police and rescue services that suggested that several of the fires were indeed caused by politically motivatedarson.

According to the tax authority, residents will receive compensation in the town of Tal El, east of Acre, as well as Zikron Ya'akov, just north of Caesarea, the West Bank settlement of Dolev, the northern town of Gilon, just west of Carmiel, the West Bank settlement of Talmon, Haifa, Nirit, Nataf, and the West Bank settlement of Halamish. (TheMarker)

Israel enlists drones, dogs, Sigint in search for arson suspects

Since the wave of fires hit Israel last week, the Israel Air Force has utilized several unmanned aerial vehicles to conduct reconnaissance flights across the country, among them its Shoval and Eitan drones.

Touring the Halamish settlement in the West Bank, where dozens of home were damaged in the blazes in recent days, Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman said on Sunday, It appears that there have been 334 hours of reconnaissance work by means of drones, gliders and the like.

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Dozens of senior Israel Police were on Tel Aviv retreat during fires

Dozens of senior police officers arrived for a team-building event at a luxury hotel in Tel Aviv Thursday while at the same time tens of thousands of families in Haifa were evacuating their homes due to the fires. Station commanders and regional commanders from all over the country attended the event at the Dan Panorama Hotel, which was booked before the fires started, but was not canceled in their wake.

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Cars with police license plates parked in front of the Dan Panorama Hotel in Tel Aviv, November 24, 2016.Credit: Ilan Assayag

Amira Hass: Israel fires raise burning questions about occupation

Is a fire started intentionally for political, or nationalist, motives worth more than an ordinary fire? Will the criteria for government compensation to Israeli citizens whose homes were damaged last week be set based on the source of the flames, creating a hierarchy of reparations and assistance?

Will a fire classified as a hostile terrorist act provide its victims with faster and higher reimbursement than those unfortunates whose houses, photo albums and computers were consumed by a fire caused by a police flare or a carelessly discarded cigarette whose combustion was fanned by the winds?

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Bedouin arrested over satirical Facebook post released

Police releases a Bedouin activist who was arrested on Thursday on suspicion of inciting to arson because of a satirical Facebook post. The police's decision to release Abudaabes came only a few hours after they had asked the Be'er Sheva District Court to deny his appeal of a lower court decision.

"The police should stop using Google Translate," Knesset member Osama Saadia (Joint List), who accompanied Abudaabes in court in Be'er Sheva, said.

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Senior police official: 30 arrested in connection with fires

A senior police official told Haaretz Sunday that up to this point 30 suspects have been arrested on arson charges, 23 of them were remanded in custody. He could not say how many of those arrested were politically motivated. According to the same source, 20 of those arrested were Israeli-Arabs.     

Out of the over 90 fires that broke out in the past week, the police said it suspects arson in 40. The police source explained that in fires that broke out in several points at the same time there is likelihood that the fire was started by an arsonist. The senior official said that in some places flammable substances were discovered. According to the source, those arrested are suspected of causing 15 of the fires.

The source could not say how many of those arrested were caught with flammable materials. According to him some of the cases against the suspects are based on circumstantial evidence, while others are based substantial evidence. The police explained that the investigation of arson is very complicated, since often the evidence is consumed by fire. (Yaniv Kubovich)

President Rivlin thanks Turkey's Erdogan helping with fires

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin spoke on the telephone Sunday with Turkish President Recip Tayyep Erdogan and thanked him for the aid Turkey provided in fighting the wave of fires in Israel.

Rivlin told Erdogan he met the Turkish pilots who came to fight the fires on Sunday, the President's Office said. "They are doing wonderful work and we very much appreciate what they are doing," said Rivlin.

"I would like to thank you from the depths of my heart for your decision to send us aid that we needed in fighting the fires. With their bravery and abilities, your pilots helped us greatly," said Rivlin.

Erdogan thanked Rivlin and said that as soon as he learned of the spreading fires he asked to send helicopters and crew to help, and he hoped and prayed the operation would end in the best possible way.

Erdogan said the two countries were in the midst of a process of renewing their relations and the new Turkish ambassador to Israel would begin work soon. Normalization of relations between Turkey and Israel is of great importance to the entire region, he said. I know we can continue to cooperate on natural gas matter, and the talks between the two energy ministries will bear fruit, said Erdogan.

The supertanker circled over fireless Haifa for hours

The supertanker's flight path.Credit: Screenshot flightradar24

The supertanker plane flown over from the United States on Friday in order to assist in the extinguishing of the fires, was flying, seemingly aimlessly, over Haifa for 2 and a half hours, an area where no fires were burning.

The plane, a Boing 747 adapted to serve as a firefighting plane, has been circling for several hours, since taking off at Ben Gurion Airport at 1:40 PM.  Assuming that the plane is returned to the U.S. on Monday or Tuesday, and that the fees for its use are marked up at the same rate they have been over recent years, Israel will pay for the plane between 5 to 6 million NIS (about $1.5 million).

Since the government decided to use the supertanker, senior officials in the firefighting service have been claiming that it wasn't needed. According to seniors in the service, no professional evaluation was made in the firefighting service to determine whether it was needed or not. "There is no operational rational here. We are working in an urban environment. The smaller planes are far more efficient for this kind of work," a senior official in the firefighter service told Haaretz over the weekend. Another official added "What we have here is more a matter of politics than operational necessity. We weren't given an opportunity to express our opinion on the matter."

The police said that "The supertanker is operated in aerial alert in order to provide an immediate response to any large fire that is identified when the time comes or to take preventative action. The rate in which fires developed under the weather of the past few days was very rapid. That is why immediate response is needed." In addition the police said that "Most of the fires in recent days developed in the early afternoon, when the eastern wind strengthens. After sundown it was difficult to put these fires out since the firefighting planes are not equipped to work after dark. In the next hour the plane will conduct preventative action in the Ein Hod area."

The plane did eventually fly over Ein Hod for 10 minutes, and then landed. (Noa Spiegel and Yaniv Kubovich)

Man arrested for calling for the burning of Arab villages on Facebook

An Israeli from central Israel was arrested on Sunday on incitement charges after he posted a post on social media calling for revenge against Arabs, whom he accused of the spate of fires in recent days.

"Just burn Arab villages back. This is war, for all leftists that believe in peace know that the Palestinian Authority is gleefully calling to burn more of our places," the man wrote.

He admitted that he indeed posted the statement and was remanded under limiting conditions. (Yaniv Kubovich)

The inciting Facebook postCredit: Screenshot

Fire rages in Park in northern Israel

A fire broke out in a park in Karmiel, northern Israel, Sunday afternoon. Firefighters have arrived on the scene.

Earlier on Sunday, a fire raged near Rishpon, in the Sharon central Israel, firefighters obtained control of the fire. No-one was injuried (Noa Spiegel and Yaniv Kubovich)

Court rejects appeal by Arab Facebook post writer

The Be'er Sheva District Court rejected Sunday the appeal of Anas Abudaabes, who was arrested on Thursday on charges that he incited to violence or terrorism, following to Facebook posts he published. He has been contending that the post was cynical.

Judge Amit Cohen ruled that Abudaabes, 29, will remain in custody at least until Monday.

The police's representative in the proceeding, Chief Inspector Oren Bar Yehosua, claimed that Abudaabes was asked to provide his cellphone's passcode three times but kept providing an erroneous passcode, which is hindering the investigation. "The police will not be deterred by the pressure of the media, opinion writers or politicians. We want to work on the actual case, and if it is proven that the plaintiff is innocent, we will be the first to reach this conclusion – but direct actions need to be taken," he said.

Judge Cohen stated in his ruling that the translation of Abudaabes's Facebook posts submitted by the police were different from those submitted by Abudaabes's attorney, so that the first translation supports the police's claim that it constituted incitement, while the latter supported the claim that the post was cynical. The judge further said that the post was written in very harsh language and gave examples of this. "There is no doubt that the plaintiff's claim that the post was written cynically needs to be looked into – but this isn't the right stage to do so, rather this should be done in the main proceeding," he wrote. (Almog Ben Zikri)

Lawmaker asks AG to open probe into incitement against Arabs

MK DR. Basel Ghattas (Joint List) contacted Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit and Minister of Public Security Gilad Erdan, on Sunday, and asked that they instruct the police to investigate Jewish Israeli citizens, who have called for burning down Arab towns on social media, so that they may be brought up on incitement charges.

"To my dismay and surprise the social networks are teeming with racist calls of incitement against Arabs and calls and incitement to take action and burn Arab towns and cities," Ghattas wrote. "The minister of public security had already, on the first day of the fires, instructed the police to investigate and arrest immediately Arab inciters I haven't heard a similar statement by the minister to the racist inciters filling up the web on the other side." (Jonathan Lis)

Fires in Zikhron Ya'akov and near Kiryat Malakhi

Firefighters have taken control over the fire raging at the Zikhron Ya'akov shopping center, by Route 4. The Firefighters on the scene believe that the fire also consumed asbestos, an extremely harmful substance. No injuries were reported. The police said that due to the blaze, a portion of the shopping center was evacuated, train traffic nearby was temporarily stopped for several minutes. Route 4 is congested going south.

Earlier, a fire broke out in Haruvit Forest, near Kiryat Malakhi. Firefighting planes and police officers were called in, and these obtained control of the fire. The cause of the fire is being investigated.

Netanyahu pledges speedy help to fire victims; Bill seeks minimum punishment for arsonists

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu promised Haifa residents on Sunday speedy government assistance to rebuild their homes wrecked by fires.

In remarks at the weekly cabinet session, Netanyahu said the spate of wild fires was not quite over citing reports of another blaze in Zichron Yaacov, where homes were destroyed in blazes last week.

Netanyahu said he had pledged while on a visit to Haifa "we will cut the bureaucracy and help rebuild as soon as possible."

"We will help you rebuild your homes," he said.

Netanyahu praised Israeli firefighters for quelling blazes he said were much more complicated than the deadlier Carmel fire of six years ago in which 44 people perished.

Habayit Hayehudi MK Nissan Slomiansky, chairman of the Knesset Law Committee, introduced a bill to set a minimum punishment of three years for arson, and permit the courts to levy a punitive fine as well. (Noa Shpigel)

Haifa viewed on November 25, 2016 through the remains of a house destroyed by fire.Credit: Ariel Schalit/AP

Lieberman calls for settlement expansion after fires; At least 17 caused by arson

Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman visits fire damaged parts of the settlement of Halamish on November 27, 2016.Credit: Gil Cohen-Magen

Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman said on a visit to Halamish that at least 17 of the fires of the past few days were definitely caused by arson.

However, he did not say which of the fires were deliberately ignited.

"Regarding the data as reported by the head of central command, in this last wave there were 100 fires, and in 17 cases we can say with certainty they were caused by arson. And we are still checking additional cases," Lieberman said.

Lieberman said that the best answer is to "expand settlements." (Read more)

Sources involved in the investigation said several firebombs were found in the area of the settlement and it appears that they were what caused the flames that damaged or destroyed 17 homes and damaged dozens of others.

But nobody in custody is suspected of involvement in the fires in Halamish.

Security forces say they have no documentation of arson taking place in the settlement, and that it seems the only evidence are the remains of bottles (from the firebombs). Firefighters say the fire was set in two spots. (Yotam Berger)

Bennett vows more settler homes in response to 'pyro-terrorism'; Four arson suspects face court

Bennett vows to build more settlerment homes in response to 'pyro-terrorism'; Court to extend detentions of four arson suspects;

Education Minister Naftali Bennett said on Sunday Israel would built "more and bigger homes" in the West Bank settlement of Halamish where fires blamed on arsonists damaged 15 homes. (Read more)

In the meantime, trailer homes would be provided for settlers whose homes are too damaged to live in, the minister said.

No suspects were in custody for the fires in Halamish.

When asked to comment on the assistance of Palestinian firefighters in putting out the blazes, Bennett replied: "We see mutual help on the part of much of the Israeli public."

Four Israelis suspected of arson faced the possibility of extended detention on Sunday.

A court in Acre will hear the cases against four suspects from Deir el Hanna in Galilee, aged 17, 21 and 22, accused of setting a brush fire on Friday. A court in Tiberias will hear the case of a 22-year-old from Kafr Kana, in the Nazareth area, suspected of starting a fire in a wooded area in lower Galilee. (Noa Shpigel, Yotam Berger)

A firefighter extinguishes a blaze in Nataf, a community near Jerusalem, on November 26, 2016.Credit: Ahmad Gharabli/AFP

Israel fires damage almost as much land as 2010 Carmel fire

Israels five days of fires have burned more than 20,000 dunams (5,000 acres) of forest, brushland and other open space, a similar scope as the record 2010 Carmel fire, the Jewish National Fund and the Israel Nature and Parks Authority said Saturday.

In the 2010 fire that racked Haifas forest, about 25,000 dunams were damaged. This year more than half the damage was done to forests. (Zafrir Rinat)

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Israel fires: Fires blaze the hills as a firefighter sprays water around a house in Nataf outside Jerusalem, Israel, November 25, 2016.Credit: Ammar Awad, Reuters

Several of suspected arsonists linked to fires in Arab towns, police mum on others

Israel Police is withholding information regarding the specific allegations against more than half of the suspected arsonists it is currently holding, as well as their legal status, even though no gag order has been issued. According to the information released about several suspects, which allegedly links them to blazes in Arab communities, it appears the alleged actions are unlikely to be politically motivated.

According to the police, 23 people are currently under arrest in relation to the fires, after seven have been released. The police released basic details regarding only 10 of them, all allegedly involved in minor fires and not in the larger blazes like those outside Jerusalem, Zichron Ya'akov or Haifa.  

In the known cases, the circumstances raise questions over the political motivation ascribed to the suspected arsonists. In one case, a Nazareth resident whose arrest has been extended is suspected of arson in his Arab-majority city. In another case, two are suspected of starting a brush fire between Sajur and Beit Jann, both of which are Arab communities. 

From the details relayed to the media, it's unclear what the remaining 13 are suspected of, whether or not they've been brought before a judge, or if the court ordered their release. 

It's also unclear whether an Arab activist whose arrest has been extended due to a satirical Facebook post regarding the fires is included among the arrestees mentioned by the police. 

The police said it will publish the information regarding the 13 suspects in the coming days, even though there's no legal obstacle to making this information public now.

(Yaniv Kubovich and Noa Shpigel)

IDF deploys commando, recon units to nab suspected arsonists in West Bank

The Israeli army is boosting troop deployment in the West Bank in order to apprehend suspected Palestinian arsonists. Two commando companies from the Maglan and Egoz units will join the forces already deployed in the area, along with reconnaissance teams meant to spot suspects in the act.

About 15 Palestinians have been arrested in the last few days on suspicion of arson and attempted arson in the West Bank. At least 10 are still held by the Shin Bet, while several others have been released after it was shown that they had no connection to the fires.

On Saturday, four Palestinians were arrested in relation to the fires. One was arrested near Umm Rehan, after a drone spotted a group of Palestinians setting fire in the area. Troops pursued the group and apprehended one of them. Near Ariel, three Palestinians were arrested after they were spotted trying to set fire in an open field.

In some cases, IDF forces take footage of suspected arsonists in the act, and then try to follow their escape route and apprehend them. A video released by the military shows how a drone is used to help locate arson suspects. "He has a backpack," a drone operator is heard repeating in the video. "Robot, just confirm that you see my image," he says, before using the aircraft to direct forces toward the suspect. (Gili Cohen)

Israeli minister: Homes of arsonists should be demolished

Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan says that the homes of politically motivated arsonists should be demolished.

Speaking to Channel 2, Erdan described recent cases of arson as "a new type of terrorism."

The wreckage of Rama's Kitchen restaurant in Nataf, near Jerusalem, after it was consumed by fire, November 26, 2016.Credit: Emil Salman

He said that the same incitement and hatred that motivates stabbings and car-ramming attacks is pushing assailants to set fires.

Therefore, he said, these acts should be fought with the same "proven tools" that Israel uses in other cases of terrorism, including the demolition of houses. 

"There is no difference," he said. "If it is possible to destroy the home of a terrorist who carried out a shooting or a stabbing, we should also destroy the home of an arsonist who confessed to have done so on political grounds, or if there is evidence to that effect."

Court extends detention of Bedouin arrested for Facebook posts

The Be'er Sheva Magistrate's Court has decided to keep in custory a Bedouin Israeli arrested Friday for two Facebook posts criticizing Arabs who were celebrating the fires in Israel online. Police argued in court that the posts could have been misunderstood as encouragement to set fires.

Anas Abudaabes, 29, argued that police hadn't translated his posts correctly and that they represented satire and criticism against those who see the fires as punishment from God.

The suspect's attorney said they would appeal the decision to extend his detention to the district court. (Jack Khoury)

Fire in Beit Meir was caused by flare fired by Israeli troops

The fire that burned in the town of Beit Meir outside of Jerusalem on Thursday night was ignited by a flare fired by Israeli border guard troops during a chase near the town. Ten homes burned during the fire and all of the residents were evacuated to the neighboring town of Shoresh.

Israel fire: Israeli firefighter in Beit Mier, near Jerusalem, extinguishes brush fire. November 25, 2016Credit: Photo: Oliver Fitoussi

Overnight between Thursday and Friday, two suspicious individuals were seen in an open area near Beit Meir. They fled the area after Israeli border guard troops arrived at the scene and the soldiers fired the flare for light in the ensuing chase. The two were caught and their remand was extended Friday by six days.

One Beit Meir resident, Reut Ben-Atar, a mother of four, recounted: We were awaked at 2:10 A.M. to screams of Get out! Everythings on fire! We opened the door and the smoke was choking us, and a lot of sparks were flying. The only thing that we did was grab the children and run to the car , but at the entrance to the moshav, it was all fire and we couldnt leave. You saw the flames coming closer in seconds. We felt like sitting ducks. We felt like the Carmel disaster, she said referring to the 2010 fire in the Carmel forest that killed 44 people, most of whom were in one bus that was engulfed in flames. After half an hour, we were ordered out in a convoy. (Nir Hasson)

Palestinian firefighters in control of some 200 fires in West Bank

Palestinian firefighters have gained control over some 200 separate fires in the West Bank that erupted over the last few days alongside the wave of blazes that spread across Israel, according to the spokesman for the Palestinian firefighter's service, Raid al-Aza. Most of the fires were located in farmland and small wooded areas and burned hundreds of acres in total.

Al-Aza told Haaretz that the two biggest fires were in the area of Nablus and in the towns around Ramallah and that none were injured. "We have to differentiate between apartment or building fires that occur as a result of an electrical shortage or human error and fires in forests and farms. Fires in apartments happen every day, but because of the events in Israel, we're now looking at every incident as irregular," he said.

According to al-Aza, firefighter crews in the West Bank rely on volunteers. "As everyone knows, we don't have air support and sometimes we have to pump water from wells." he said. Fires have also burned in the last few days in Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey and Egypt due to weather conditions. (Jack Khoury)

Netanyahu thanks Palestinian President Abbas for help in putting out fires

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has called Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to thank him for sending fire crews and trucks to help fight the blazes in Israel.

Netanyahu also said he appreciates the fact that Jews and Arabs have opened their homes to victims of the fires.

Over the past few days, dozens of Palestinian firefighters were dispatched to help fight the blazes in Haifa, near Jerusalem and in the West Bank settlement of Halamish. (Barak Ravid and Gili Cohen)

A wildfire rages in Haifa, November 24, 2016. Credit: Ariel Schalit, AP

Fire near West Bank town of Halamish brought under control

Firefighters suspect that the fire at the West Bank settlement of Halamish was caused by arson. The blaze, which saw some 350 families evacuated and was resurgent Friday after being brought under control, has once again been brought under control.

More than 1,000 residents of the settlement were evacuated from their homes because of the fire and 17 homes were completely destroyed by the flames while several other building suffered various levels of damage. Two residents were lightly injured as they were evacuated. (Yotam Berger)

23 in police custody suspected of arson, incitement

Israeli police are currently holding 23 individuals suspected of arson or incitement to commit arson. More than 30 suspects have been questioned by police since the first fires broke out. Earlier Saturday, the Israeli army said that more than 10 Palestinian suspects had been arrested and handed to the Shin Bet for further investigations.

An Israeli Bedouin was arrested on Thursday for a Facebook post criticizing Arabs who were celebrating the fires in Israel online. Police argued that the posts could have been misunderstood as encouragement to set fires.

U.S. supertanker returns to airport after Jerusalem mission

The U.S. supertanker has returned to Ben Gurion Airport after carrying out a firefighting mission in the Judean Hills near Jerusalem. 

The American "Supertanker" helps extinguish a fire in the Jerusalem area, November 26, 2016.Credit: Airport spokesman

Most fires across Israel are under control

Most fires across Israel are under control.

Earlier, fire resurged in wooded areas near the West Bank settlement of Halamish. Some 350 families have been evacuated from the settlement; 15 houses have collapsed as result of the fire and 25 others were damaged, as was the power system. (Yotam Berger)

'Supertanker' heads to Jerusalem

The American "Supertanker" firefighting aircraft has departed from Ben Gurion International Airport and in currently flying over the area of Jerusalem, according to air traffic tracking websites.

Over ten arson suspects arrested as investigations continue

Over ten arson suspects have been arrested in investigations into the fires across Israel over the last few days, according to the Israeli army. The suspects have been handed over to the Shin Bet for questioning.

According to the army, Israeli soldiers arrested three of the suspects overnight near the West Bank town of Dayr Qadis near Modi'in. The three were in a car where soldiers also found an empty bottle of gasoline along with two full ones, a bag filled with cloth, gloves and lighters.

Israeli soldiers, alongside police officers, later took another suspect into custody after an employee of the Israel Nature and Parks Authority saw him trying to set fire to brush near the West Bank town of Battir, near Jerusalem. The suspect is also a resident of Battir. (Gili Cohen and Almog Ben Zikri)

Arson suspect Katosh as seen trying to set fire to brush near the West Bank town of Battir on Saturday, November 26, 2016.Credit: Israel Nature and Parks Authority

Palestinian firefighters to return to West Bank after helping Israel

Palestinian firefighter forces, who entered Israel to help battle the ongoing brush-fires in the Jerusalem area, have completed their mission and will return to the West Bank in a few hours, rescue officials told Haaretz.

Earlier on Saturday, the head of the Palestinian firefighting force, Nasser Yossef, visited with his forces who were working in Nave Ilan and Nataf. He then met with his Israeli counterpart.

On Thursday, Israel accepted an offer by the Palestinian Authority to send four firefighting teams to help combat the blazes across the country, a senior official told Haaretz. (Gili Cohen)

Hundreds of settlers evacuated as more firefighters arrive in Israel

Fires continued to burn in different parts of Israel Saturday morning, with 350 Israelis being evacuated from the West Bank settlement of Halamish, where the blaze destroyed 15 homes and damaged 25 more. It took over 20 firefighting crews to put the fire in Halamish under partial control.

In Nataf, a Jewish community in the Jerusalem-area hit hard by the fire, forces managed to contain the flames, pushing them back down the mountain and away from homes. However, due to the dry and windy weather conditions, there are fears new blazes would spread.

In Haifa, the fire was all but subdued, and forces battled only a number of small fires overnight. Residents of the northern community of Harashim were allowed to return to their homes after the fire in the Galilee region was also contained.

Saturday morning also saw some 69 firefighting forces from Cyprus arrive in Israel to help quell the brushfires. (Yotam Berger, Nir Hasson and Jack Khoury)

Damage caused by brush-fire to house in West Bank settlement of Halamish. November 26, 2016.Credit: Fire and Rescue Services

Three sustain serious injuries in Ma'ale Adumim apartment fire

A man and woman in their 20s and a women in her 50s sustained serious injuries when a fire broke out in a four-story apartment building in Ma'ale Adumim, near Jerusalem. Nine others, including a 4-month-old baby, sustained mild injuries as a result of the fire. Firefighters have since put out the fire.

Two of the nine who sustained mild injuries were 16-year-olds who injured themselves fleeing the building. The other five injuries were the result of smoke exposure. They were treated by first responders on the scene and rushed to Jerusalem hospitals for further treatment.

"We saw an apartment building filled with thick smoke," a first responder described his experiences on the scene, "entering the hallway was impossible, and people were screaming for help. The firefighters arrived with a crane and ladders and evacuated people suffering from exposure to smoke to our care. A young man and young woman in their 20s were unconscious, and we administered life-saving medical treatment, which included CPR. We evacuated them to the hospital for further treatment in serious condition, sedated and ventilated. Ten additional residents, who inhaled smoke, were also treated by our teams, among them a baby of about four months and two teenagers of about 16, who injured themselves, while escaping the heavy smoke." (Yotam Berger)

Satirical Facebook post criticizing celebration of Israel fires lands Arab in jail

A satirical Facebook posts about the fire crisis has landed an Israeli Bedouin in jail.

Anas Abudaabes, 29, an activist from the southern Israeli town of Rahat, was arrested on Thursday after posting two messages critical of Arabs who see the fires plaguing Israel as punishment for a bill that seeks to silence mosque loudspeakers. Abudaabes says the police mistranslated one of his posts, reaching the mistaken conclusion that he encouraged on Arabs to set fires.
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Hundreds evacuated as fire spreads into Israeli settlement in West Bank

A fire raging in the West Bank has spread into the Israeli settlement Halamish. 10 houses caught fire, and one woman sustained light injuries. Over 1,000 residents are being evacuated from their homes. Police officers and firefighters are on the scene. The settlement's electrical infrastructure was damaged. (Yaniv Kubovich, Yotam Berger)

Firefighters push back blaze outside Jerusalem, flames dying down

Some 60 firefighting crews managed to push back the flames near Nataf outside Jerusalem. According to fire official, the flames were under control and subsiding in most areas.

However, it was decided not to let residents go back to their homes, as it was still possible that weather conditions and winds could reignite the flames.

While most of the town has evacuated, a few dozen residents have stayed behind to assist in the firefighting efforts. One of them, Nataf's chairman Rami Matan, told Haaretz: "The wind is constantly tricking us. I'm on the porch seeing the flames getting near, I hope it won't draw any closer. The flames are very high, the mountain is enveloped in a carpet of fire. I've never seen anything like it."

Many firefighting crews from across Israel have arrived at the area, as well as Palestinian crews from Ramallah. "Firefighters are one big family, there's no difference," said Udi Gal, a firefighter and the spokesman for the firefighting services in Jerusalem. 

Airtankers will resume their activities in the area only at dawn. An IDF helicopter is on standby in order to evacuate residents in case the roads close.

Earlier, Rama's Kitchen, a well-known restaurant just outside the town, was burned to the ground.

Maya Ben Zvi, the restaurant owner, said that they tried to put out a fire near the restaurant but didn't have enough water pressure. "We saw the tree burn and set fire to the entire restaurant," she told Channel 2. When the fire approached, they evacuated the customers. "We told them to get out, when the place caught fire we ran. We're all in pain over the life work that was incinerated in a second." (Nir Hasson)

Israel fire: Firefighters helps extinguish a new blaze that broke out in the town of Nataf, west of Jerusalem, on November 25, 2016.Credit: Ahmad Gharabli, AFP

American 'supertanker' arrives in Israel

The American "supertanker" plane, the largest aerial firefighting aircraft in the world, lands in Israel to help put out the blazes raging across the country.

Senior rescue services officials say that the aircraft's arrival is unnecessary. "This is a matter of politics and less of an operational need. We weren't given the opportunity to express ourselves on the matter," said one official.

The supertanker in Ben Gurion Airport, November 25, 2016.

110 buildings damaged in Haifa fires

Some 60,000 residents return to Haifa after firefighters quell blazes. According to city hall, 110 buildings were damaged, 42 of which were deemed too dangerous to approach. Some 860 apartments were damaged in the fire. (Noa Shpigel)

Israel using drones to find suspected arsonists

The Israel Air Force is using 10 drones to find suspected arsonists and fires.

A video released by the military shows how a drone is used to help locate arson suspects. "He has a backpack," a drone operator is heard repeating in the video. "Robot, just confirm that you see my image," he says, before using the aircraft to direct forces toward the suspect. 

Meanwhile, air tankers that have arrived from Turkey, Russia, Croatia, Cyprus and Italy are operating to help put out the flames. After completing a mission, the planes refuel and restock fire retardants at the Hatzor air base in southern Israel, before taking off again. An Israeli pilot has been assigned to each foreign plane to ease coordination. (Gili Cohen)

Another fire near Jerusalem; 'suspected arsonist seen fleeing'

Another blaze broke out near the town of Beit Meir, in the Judean Hills, west of Jerusalem. According to fire officials, arsonists were seen fleeing the area.

Earlier, residents of the nearby town of Nataf were evacuated due to another fire that was suspected to have been caused by a firebomb. Damage was caused to a restaurant and a home.

The police searched door to door for Nataf residents who haven't evacuated, finding eight and escorting them out of the danger zone. (Nir Hasson)

Israel fire: Firefighters helps extinguish a new blaze that broke out in the town of Nataf, west of Jerusalem, on November 25, 2016.Credit: Ahmad Gharabli, AFP

Major fire breaks out near Jerusalem, firebombing suspected

A major fire has broken out near Ma'ale Hahamisha and Nataf, in the Judean Hills, west of Jerusalem.

Fire officials suspect that the blaze was caused by a firebomb thrown from a Palestinian village, Katane, which is beyond the security barrier. Thirty firefighting crews and 20 air tankers have been dispatched to the area.

Several areas are ablaze in the West Bank as well. Fires have broken out near the settlements of Dolev, Shaked and Yitzhar. (Nir Hasson)

Fire in Israel: A firefighter inspects the damages in Beit Meir, a village in the hills west of Jerusalem, Israel, November 25, 2016.Credit: Ahmad Gharabli, AFP
A fire is seen blazing near Jerusalem from Modi'in, Israel, November 25, 2016.Credit: N/A

Haifa fire fully under control

The Haifa fire department says that the blaze in the city is now fully under control.

A spokesman said that firefighting forces are gradually being dismissed from the area. By Saturday, only 20 crews are expected to remain in the city. (Noa Shpigel)

Firefighters in Haifa, November 24, 2016.Credit: Abdullah Shama

More than 13 arrested in connection to the fires, minister says

Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan says several arrests have been made in connection to the fires across the country, in addition to the 13 arrested that were reported on Thursday.

Investigators are having trouble determine what caused the fires as the flames destroy the evidence.

"All it takes is a little match," says Ran Shelef, the head of Israel's fire investigation unit. "You don't need flammable substances or any special torching device."

On Thursday, investigators managed to determine that at least some of the fires were intentional, although they did not have unequivocal proof. In the best case scenarios, witnesses, videos, wind direction and objects help investigators put the puzzle together. "In other cases, there is no explanation," Shelef says. " ... We will only be able to tell following a thorough investigation. We are very careful." (Ilan Lior)

Netanyahu: Anyone who tries to set Israel on fire will be severely punished

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a press conference that "anyone who tries to burn the State of Israel will be severely punished."

Netanyahu made the remarks after holding an operational meeting in the Hatzor airbase in southern Israel and speaking with Israeli and foreign air tanker pilots. The prime minister said additional tankers are on their way. "We have given aid to other countries in the past and now we are getting help from them in return," he said.

Netanyahu said that there is "no doubt" that arson is at play in some of the fires that have broken out across the country but noted that it is unknown how many of the fires were caused intentionally.

"Anyone who tries to burn the State of Israel will be punished severely ... " he said. "Crime has a price. Arson terrorism has a price, and we will make sure to collect. There are fundamentals of terrorism here, there is absolutely no doubt." He noted that it is as yet unclear whether the incidents were coordinated. (Barak Ravid)

Homes evacuated as new fires erupt in northern Israel, West Bank

A new fire has erupted next to the town of Yad in the lower Galilee region where 15 homes have been evacuated and no injuries have been reported. Yet another fire has broken out north of the settlement of Yitzhar in the West Bank. 

At the town of Harashim, firefighters are struggling in heavy winds to hold back flames that have come within 300 meters of housing. Highway 864 leading into the two has been blocked to traffic and all residents have been evacuated. (Noa Shpigel and Jack Khoury)

A firefighting plane flies over the northern Israeli town of Harashim on Friday, November 25, 2016.Credit: Gil Eliahu

Police: Residents of six evacuated Haifa neighborhoods can return home

Police have announced that the residents of six separate Haifa neighborhoods, Ramat Alon, Ramat Remez, Ramat Golda, Ramat Begin, Ramot Chen and Ramat Almogi - excluding Einstein Street which will remain closed - can return to their homes after being evacuated. (Noa Shpigel)

Israel Fire: Egypt and Jordan to send aid, firefighting crews

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has accepted an offer of aid in fighting Israel's fires from Egypt and Jordan.

Egypt is expected to send two firefighting helicopters and Jordan will send ground crews.

The prime minister accepted a similar offer from the Palestinian Authority on Thursday, and four Palestinian crews are still active in fighting the fires in Haifa.(Barak Ravid)

Firefighter planes dump flame retardant on fire in Haifa on Thursday, November 24, 2016.Credit: Ilan Assayag

Public security minister: Evidence found that original fire was arson

Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan said that evidence has been found that the initial fire that broke out in Zikron Ya'akov and burned 30 homes was the result of arson. "We found gasoline in Zikron," Erdan told Army radio in an interview. 

According to the minister, "At the moment we are focused on saving lives, there's no time to completely investigate all of the incidents. However, rescue and fire workers have decades of experience ... and the consencus is that this is arson."

Erdan also said that the army had been contacted for help via use of unmanned drones and that this cooperation led to the arrest of one arson suspect in Beit Meir near Jerusalem.

Residents can return to homes in Haifa's Denya neighborhood, say police

Flames in Haifa's neighborhood of Ramat Eshkol have rebounded and two firefighting planes from Croatia are leading the operations to extinguish the fire in the area. In the neighborhood of Denya however, police told residents that they can now return to their homes. 

According to the municipality, 37 homes in Haifa have been severely damaged. Separately, a fire in Harashim north of Carmiel is still burning out of control and some of the town's residents have been evacuated, though homes in the area aren't considered to be in any danger. (Noa Shpigel)

Town in northern Israel evacuated due to proximity of new fire

12 suspects are being investigated by police on suspicion of arson or incitement to arson. 

A new fire has broken out in the town of Harashim, north east of Carmiel in northern Israel. The town has been evacuated due to the proximity of the fire. (Noa Shpigel and Yaniv Kubovitch)

Evacuees at a help center in Haifa after a fire forced them to leave their homes on Thursday, November 24, 2016.Credit: Rami Shllush

Second arson suspected arrested for fire near Jerusalem, crews reduce presence in Haifa

In light of improving conditions in Haifa's fire, the amount of forces in the area will be reduced in the coming hours. 35 teams are expected to remain, including four offered as aid from the Palestinian Authority and multiple firefighting planes. Police stressed Friday morning however, that residents who were evacuated are still not permitted to return to their homes. Israel's Electric Corporation said that 700 homes remain without electricity in Haifa.

Police have arrested a second suspect in the fire in Beit Meir near Jerusalem. A team from Israel's Environmental Protection Ministry is expected to test the air quality in the hills near Jerusalem over concerns of pollution from buildings containing asbestos that burned in the area. The ministry does not expect that residents will be allowed to return home on Friday. The fire in the area is being fed by strong winds and firefighters are focusing their efforts to prevent the flames from reaching a gas station and construction site of Israel Railways.

A resident of Rahat was arrested Thursday accused of posting incitement on Facebook. He has appeared in court for a hearing to extend his remand. (Noa Shpigel, Nir Hasson and Almog Ben Zikri)

Firefighters battle a blaze in Beit Meir near Jerusalem on Friday, November 25, 2016.Credit: Olivier Fitoussi

Israel Fire: How Netanyahu's bigger, 'better' firefighting squadron led to a spectacular failure

Theres no point being wise after the fact. The warnings were there, and were updated again after pretentious plans were supposedly put in place. The results are scorched into Israels towns and hillsides. Benjamin Netanyahu, who was apportioned the major responsibility for the lack of preparedness of Israels firefighting services during the deadly Mount Carmel fire in 2010 by State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss, wasted the following six years in fitful empty gestures. Who will he blame now, what will he boast about, as he stands like a beggar asking for help from our neighbors?

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Israel fire: A plane battles a fire in Haifa, Israel, November 24, 2016.Credit: Ariel Schalit, AP

Homes ignite in fire near Jerusalem, blaze in Haifa calms

At least ten homes have caught fire and were severely damaged in the town of Beit Meir near Jerusalem as the blaze there continues to rage out of control. An illegal resident was arrested near the source of the fire. Residents who were evacuated overnight to nearby Shoresh have not yet been allowed to return to their homes.

Meanwhile, firefighters report that the fire in Haifa calmed down overnight. Rescue workers left in the area are spread out to prevent a revival of the fire as they work to extinguish what remains of the fire - an effort that could last for several days. (Noa Shpigel and Nir Hasson)

Fire in Israel: Firefighters battle a blaze in Beit Meir near Jerusalem on Friday, November 25, 2016.Credit: Jerusalem Fire and Rescue

Police detain man over suspected arson in Jerusalem area

Police detained a man over suspected arson in the Jerusalem-area community of Beit Meir on Friday morning after a fire broke out there earlier.

Police had earlier received a report that a number of suspects were seen fleeing from the area, it said.

Jerusalem-area community evacuated

Multiple firefighting crews made their way to the Jerusalem-area community of Beit Meir early on Friday morning after a fire broke out in the area.

Residents were evacuated to the neighboring Shoresh, and no injuries were reported.

'Supertanker' to arrive in Israel, perhaps unnecessarily

Six years after it arrived in Israel to fight the massive Carmel fire, the "Supertanker" firefighting plane will arrive in Israel on Friday to help put out the flames raging across the country.

However, senior rescue services officials say that the aircraft's arrival is unnecessary.

According to the officials, no assessment had been carried out by professionals to determine the operational need for the plane.

"This is a matter of politics and less of an operational need. We weren't given the opportunity to express ourselves on the matter," said one official.

Fire in Judean Hills grows stronger

The fire in the Judean Hills grew stronger on Thursday night. Large firefighting forces were attempting to prevent it from spreading.

Another fire, near the northern community of Upper Nazareth, also grew stronger.

Weather conditions over the weekend are not expected to bode well with the firefighters. The eastern winds that fanned the fires are expected to continue to blow on Friday, but will weaken toward nighttime. 

New fires break out in northern Israel

A large fire broke out near the northern community of Carmiel. Eight firefighting crews were operating at the scene. No injuries were reported.

Another fire erupted near the kibbutzim of Tzivon and Sasa in the Upper Galilee.  

Airbnb waives service fees in light of fires

The Airbnb online homestay network on Thursday waived all service fees for its users in Israel in light of the fires raging in multiple locations across the country.

A disaster response page was set up to enable people affected by the fire to find a place to stay.

New fires spread quickly in north, threatening homes

Several new fires have erupted in northern Israel, including one large fire spreading quickly between Nahf and Sajur near Karmiel. 

Another blaze near Kiryat Ata is nearing homes. Yet another fire broke out between the Kibbutzim of Tsiv'on and Sasa in the Golan. (Noa Shpigel)

A fire that erupted in northern Israel near Nahf on Thursday, November 24, 2016.Credit: Fire and Rescue Spokesperson's unit

Israel accepts Palestinian offer to send four teams to combat blazes

Israel has accepted an offer by the Palestinian Authority to send four firefighting teams to help combat the blazes, a senior official said. The Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories is now overseeing the cooperation between Palestinian fire trucks and Israeli fire crews.

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Civilians in a vehicle watch as flames engulf trees across the street in Haifa on Thursday, November 24, 2016.Credit: Gil Eliahu

Six years after fire claims 44 lives, Israelis watch north burn again

The images of fires blazing out of control, huge plumes of smoke in the sky and homes burnt to the ground have struck horror in the hearts of many Israelis in recent days. In part, because the scenes are all too familiar. 

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The remains of a bus carrying Israeli Prison Service cadets that caught fire on its way up to evacuate a prison on Mt. Carmel, Israel, December 2, 2012.Credit: Yaron Kaminski

Over 2,000 acres burned in Israel's largest fire since 2010

Nearly 9,000 dunams (2,224 acres) have been burned in the fires across Israel, in the bieggest natural disaster in the country in terms of land involved since the Carmel fires of 2010, according to a JNF estimate.

Fires continue to spread in the areas of Canada Park and Sha'ar HaGai near Jerusalem. Access to these areas is limited and no progress in expected to be made there overnight. Many firefighters and other rescue workers are at the scenes to defend roads, towns and a gas station in Sha'ar HaGai, but no firefighting activities are currently taking place. (Tzafrir Rinat)

Firefighters working into the late evening near Haifa on Thursday, November 24, 2016.Credit: Moti Milrod

Public security minister: Israel fires 'under control,' 8 arrested

Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan told Channel 2 News that the fires across Israel "are under control." According to him, "The statements about the arson are statements that are backed up by professional sources from the Fire and Rescue Authority. But it must be understood that the efforts of the last two days are not investigations but life-saving efforts - and so we need to remember that these are initial evaluations.

In a subsequent interview with Channel 10, Erdan said that eight individuals had been arrested and that the arson was suspected of being politically motivated.

Four Arabs were arrested Thursday morning, suspected of arson. The investigation moved forward as suspected negligent arson, but in the end, the four were released after it proved that they weren't involved with the fires. (Yaniv Kubovitch)

Facebook activates safety check feature in wake of Israel fire

Facebook has activated its security check feature for the Haifa area in wake of the fires that spread across Israel.

The social media platform has come under public criticism in the past for not activating its feature during other events in Israel like terror attacks. 

Over 130 people were injured in the fires on Thursday, mostly from smoke inhalation, but none were considered in serious of life-threatening condition.

Haifa neighborhoods to remain without electricity overnight

Haifa municipality has announced that several neighborhoods will remain without electricity overnight and at least through Friday morning, including Ramat Chen, Ramat Sapir, Ramat Almogi, Ramat Begin, Ramat Golda, Hurav and Romema.

Firefighters in the area of Ein Hod successfully extinguished the fire that erupted there. 

Meanwhile, a firefighting plane from Turkey has landed in Israel. (Noa Shpigel and Gili Cohen)

A fire blazes in Haifa on Thursday, November 24, 2016.Credit: Gil Eliahu
Firefighters combat a fire at a home in Haifa on Thursday, November 24, 2016.Credit: Ofer Vaknin

Netanyahu asks for help fighting Israel fire from American 'Supertanker'

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has ordered the Foreign Ministry to contact the American company that operates the "Supertanker," a massive firefighting plane, to discuss the possibility of bringing it to Israel to help handle the wave of fires that have spread across the country, according to a senior source.

A Foreign Ministry spokesman confirmed Netanyahu's request and said that an agreement had been reached that would see the supertanker arrive in Israel within 28 hours.

The Supertanker is a Boeing 747 outfitted with technology to act as a firefighting plane. It was first brought to Israel to fight the massive fire in Carmel in 2010. (Barak Ravid)

U.S. Evergreen 747 supertanker sprays over an area in Ein Hod in the Carmel Forest in the outskirts of Haifa on December 5, 2010Credit: Jack Guez, AFP

Homes burned in central Israeli town

Several homes were set alite in a fire in the central Israeli town of Nirit, that has subsequently been extinguished. No injuries were reported.

The entrance to the town, which has been without electricty, was blocked off and a center to receive evacuated families was set up in the neighboring town of Matan.

The Sha'ar HaNegev Regional Council has invited residents of the north who were forced to evacuate their homes to stay with host families in the south. Those interested in participating are asked to call 03-6925331. (Lee Yaron and Almog Ben Zikri)

A home burned in a fire that engulfed residential neighborhoods of Haifa on Thursday, November 24, 2016.Credit: Ofer Vaknin

Netanyahu: Arson is terror and will be treated as such

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that "Every fire that was the result of arson or incitement to arson is terror in every way and we'll treat it as such. Anyone who tries to burn parts of the State of Israel will be severely punished."

Public Security Minister gilad Erdan that "It's already pretty clear that some of the fires are the result of arson. As the prime minister said, this is terror by arsonists."

Erdan confirmed that multiple arrests have been made, but said that "at the moment the police doesn't have any interest in divulging further information."

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses Israeli media about the fires across Israel on Thursday, November 24, 2016.Credit: Moti Milrod

The Arab Higher Monitoring Committee condemned Netanyahu's comments and said that they amounted to incitement against the Arab public. (Barak Ravid and Jack Khoury)

Prison 6 evacuated in Haifa, prisoners transferred to alternative facilities

Israeli military police have begun evacuating Prison 6, located near Mt. Carmel in Haifa. The prisoners are being transferred to alternate facilities and some are being released, according to considerations for each specific case.

Prison 6 is the second prison near Haifa to be evacuated as a result of the fires.

The fire in Haifa has resulted in several fire outages - on Sapir Street, Ramat Chen, Almogi, part of Romema, Ahuza and part of Golda. (Noa Shpigel)

Firefighters battle flames in a residential neighborhood of Haifa on Thursday, November 24, 2016.Credit: Rami Shllush

Haifa prison evacuated, Israeli soldiers to remain on call over weekend

Israeli combat soldiers and those currently in boot camp won't be allowed to go home for the weekend as usual due to the fires spreading across Israel, the army has announced.

According to an army spokesman, soldiers will be kept on their bases in a state of prepardness "to help security forces fight the wave of fires across the country until further notice."

Damon prison, located on Mt. Carmel, is also being evacuated. Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan announced that the prison would be evacuated after speaking with the police chief and head of the Israel Prison Service.

Police and the Israel Prison Service stressed that there is no immediate threat to the facility, but that it would be evacuated as a precaution before night set in. (Gili Cohen and Yaniv Kubovitch)

Burned out vehicles stand in a wake of a fire that burned through Haifa's residential neighborhoods on Thursday, November 24, 2016.Credit: Ofer Vaknin

Large forest fire spreads, threatens additional towns in northern Israel

A large forest fire is spreading just outside the town of Midrach Oz in the Jezreel Valley, just south west of Nazareth. Over 10 firefighting teams are active on the scene. 

Another blaze is spreading in the area of Esh'har, a town under threat in the Galilee region, just south of Karmiel. 

Meanwhile, a fire burning in Savyon in central Israel has been brought under control. 

Firefighters are continuing their efforts against fires in open areas near Lotem in the Galilee region, Avtalyon, due south of Lotem, the Segev Forest, near Karmiel, Beit Keshet, just north east of Nazareth, Kfar HaHoresh, also near Nazareth, and HaZore'a Forest, south east of Haifa.

Firefighters in northern Israel have responded to over 100 separate fire incidents over the last two days. (Noa Shpigel and Yaniv Kubovitch)

Fires spread in Haifa on Thursday, November 24, 2016.Credit: Ofer Vaknin

At least 132 injured in Haifa fire

At least 132 have been evacuated from Haifa to various hospitals with injuries related to the fires, mostly from smoke inhalation. 

57 were accepted at Rambam Hospital and 16 of them have been released. 44 were taken to Carmel hospital and another 31 were taken to Bnei Tzion Hospital including three children and a six-month old. 

Most of those cared for at the various hospitals have been released and all were considered lightly wounded aside from one woman who is in moderate condition from smoke inhalation. (Noa Shpigel)

Smoke from a fire in Haifa, Israel, 24, 2016. Credit: Rami Shllush

Flames engulf Haifa kindergarten, new neighborhoods under threat

A Haifa kindergarten has been engulfed in the flames in the neighborhood on Oron Street and flames have also spread to the areas of Romema. 

One fire in the neighborhood of Ramat Sapir has continued to burn and spread toward Haifa's "Grand Canyon" shopping center. (Noa Shpigel)

Rescue workers enter an apartment in the area of fires in Haifa on Thursday, November 24, 2016.Credit: Ilan Assayag

Arab MK: Stop incitement against Arabs, priority is to save Haifa

Joint Arab List Chair Aymen Udeh said that incitement against Arabs needs to stop in wake of the fires raging across Israel.

"I don't know if it's an Arab or not," he said. "If it is, a severe punishment is in order. We're all together to try and save this beautiful place. I'm a son of Haifa and the Carmel, but the most important thing right now is to save this place. It's not important if it's Jews or Arabs, Haifa and the Carmel belong to all of us. This harms everyone."

Udeh specifically addressed a Facebook post from Education Minister Naftali Bennett, saying that he must "descend very fast from this place of incitement and join hands, the nationality is not important. I'm sure that sane people, Jews and Arabs, who hear me, know that I'm speaking from the bottom of my heart. Enough with the incitement."

Bennett wrote on Facebook on Wednesday, "Only he who the country doesn't belong to him is capable of burning it." (Noa Shpigel)

Firefighter planes dump flame retardant on fire in Haifa on Thursday, November 24, 2016.Credit: Ilan Assayag

Israel police chief: Arrests made in connection with fires

Israel Police Chief Roni Alsheich has confirmed that arrests have been made in connection to the fires spreading throughout Israel.

The Associated Press reported that four Palestinians have been arrested.

Alsheich also said that if the fires were in fact acts of arson, he believed that they were not organized, but were instead the result of people "taking advantage of the opportunity."

The police chief said that a special unit of investigators handles cases of suspected arson and that those responsible probably had political motives.

Firefighters in Haifa douse flames in a residential neighborhood in Haifa on Thursday, November 24, 2016.Credit: Gil Eliahu

Alsheich also said that those who needed to evacuate have done so and asked civilians from other areas to stay in their homes. (Noa Shpigel)

Flames bear down on Haifa gas station; Technion institute evacuated

A fire has begun advancing quickly toward a gas station in the area of Sha'ar ha-Gai Street in Haifa, even as firefighters struggle to keep the flames back. 

Haifa's Technion University has also begun evacuations. (Nir Hasson and Noa Shpigel)

Fire in Haifa, November 24, 2016.Credit: Israel Fire Rescue Services

New fires erupt in Modi'in, Rishon LeTsion

Several new fires have erupted, one next to the train station in Modi'in and another next to train tracks in the area of Caesarea. A third new blaze also began in Rishon LeTzion while another sprang up in Menashe forest, causing the closure of a portion of highway 6953.

Both train stations in Modi'in were closed as a result of the fire in the city and firefighters in Rishon LeTzion are battling to keep the flames from spreading to a gas station.

Meanwhile, security guards caught and investigated a young man after seeing him fleeing from the scene where a fire was set near Damon Prison southeast of Haifa. Two prisons, Damon and Carmel, are on standby to evacuate if needed. (Nir Hasson and Yaniv Kubovitch)

Firefighting planes flight over Haifa on Thursday, November 24, 2016.Credit: Rami Shllush

Shin Bet investigating fires as possible arson

The Shin Bet confirmed that they are involved in investigations into the fires that have broken out across Israel, specifically to determine whether they are the result of intentional arson. (Gili Cohen)

A fire blazes in a residential neighborhood in Haifa on Thursday, November 24, 2016.Credit: Moti Milrod

56 injured, treated by emergency responders

At least 56 people injured by the fires were treated by Magen David Adom emergency responders.

55 of them were confirmed lightly hurt as a result of smoke inhalation and one person was moderately injured. At least three were evacuated to Bnei Zion Hospital, 20 to Rambam Hospital and 13 to Carmel hospital.

Two IDF Home Front Command battalions and reservists are aiding civilian firefighting and police efforts.

Civilians not in areas called on for evacuation were told to remain indoors, close shutters and refrain from turning on air conditioning units. Civilians were also asked to keep away from the areas of the fires.

Fire in Haifa, November 24, 2016.Credit: Israel Fire Rescue Services

Tens of thousands told to immediately evacuate

In the northern city of Haifa, several roads and schools were closed and dozens of residents were evacuated in some neighborhoods, while thousands of Haifa residents are being encourage to evacuate immediately.

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A fire burns in Haifa, Israel, November 24, 2016. Credit: Ariel Schalit, AP

Russia, Turkey to send aerial support to Israel

Russia, Turkey, Greece, Italy, Croatia and Cyprus agreed to send a total of 10 airplanes to Israel to help battle the fire.

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Israel fire: A plane battles a fire in Haifa, Israel, November 24, 2016.Credit: Ariel Schalit, AP

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