Two Israeli Arab Teens Charged With Arson of Jewish Community, No Motive Given

Political motives have not been ascribed to any of the suspects being held for the series of fires that raged across Israel last month.

A fire in Mei Ami, a moshav in northern Israel, November 24, 2016.
Abdullah Shama

Two teenagers from Umm al-Fahm, an Arab town in northern Israel, were charged with deliberately setting a fire at the outskirts of the nearby Jewish community of Mei Ami during the week in which multiple fires raged across Israel.

According to the charge sheet, the two — Suleiman Mahamid, 18, and a 17-year-old — drove up to the entrance of Mei Ami on the night of November 27 and used cigarette lighter fluid to set fire to some dry thistles nearby, before fleeing the scene. The community’s security officer, who was nearby, noticed the conflagration and followed the two in his vehicle. The blaze was extinguished by firefighters after burning an area of close to 300 square meters.

The suspects were arrested and confessed. They are being prosecuted for arson. The charge sheet does not cite any motive for the act.

Suleiman Mahamid, 18, one of the two charged with arson in the Mei Ami fire in November, December 15, 2016.
Rami Shllush

In requesting an extension of their remand, prosecutors noted that it was “clear that they posed a danger to the public, since they had maliciously torched a forested area full of vegetation, near a populated area. This was done at a time in which there were multiple fires across the country, which had destroyed large wooded areas and caused great damage to homes due to extreme weather conditions.”

To date, several suspects have been charged with setting fires that week, but political motives have not been ascribed to any of them. Three residents of the Arab town of Deir Hanna in the lower Galilee were indicted for setting fires near their village on November 24. Similar charges were filed against two minors from Jadeidi-Makr in the Galilee for burning leaves in the Ahihud Forest. In extending the suspects' detention the judge noted that this was more a case of mischief than a politically motivated act. Another Umm al-Fahm resident was charged with burning wood and some metal cans in the neighborhood he lives in.

Two Druze residents from Sajur, one of them a minor, were released from detention after being suspected of arson in an area between Sajur and Beit Jann. Three Bedouin from Bosmat Tiv’on, who were also suspected of arson and car theft near their village near Haifa, are expected to be charged soon, but only for possession of a stolen vehicle.

Investigators have concluded that arson was the cause of the large fire in Zichron Yaakov as well as the one near the Paz Bridge in Haifa, but no suspects have been arrested. Investigators have yet to determine the cause of the large fire in Haifa's Romema neighborhood.

Despite this, property tax authorities have deemed all the fires to be the result of hostile actions, entitling victims to compensation by the state.