Nov. 24, 2016
Developing: 80,000 evacuated around Haifa; Shin Bet and Police investigating background, Police Chief says not all fires caused by arson.
Prime Minister Benjaman Netanyahu said at a press conference Thursday that Israel is facing a wave of terror in the form of arsonists setting much of the country ablaze.
“Every fire caused by arson, or incitement to commit arson, is terrorism for all intents and purposes, and we will bring them to justice,” he said.
Speaking after a meeting to update leaders on the efforts being made against the hundreds of fires around the country, Netanyahu thanked the many forces working around the clock to save lives, and reserved special mention to foreign leaders, who have sent planes and firefighters to help in the efforts.
“Firefighting planes from Israel and around the world are the critical component (in fighting the fires). That’s why we have built the fire air squadron, and it is doing an excellent job. Countries are joining hands (but) we need more help from abroad. Russia, Greece, Italy Cyprus, Croatia and Turkey have already answered the call. By midnight two additional planes Russian President Vladimir Putin has sent will be here.”
The fires that have burned across Israel since Tuesday continue to rage, with new areas threatened by flames as other blazes have come under control. Israel Police estimate that over 200 have been confirmed since Tuesday.
The Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) and Israel Police announced Thursday afternoon that they have detained a number of suspects on suspicion of arson.
Some 80,000 residents have been evacuated from the Haifa area in light of fires in the northern port city, according to police estimates as of Thursday afternoon. According to latest figures, there were 30 reports of light injury due to smoke inhalation.
The University of Haifa was also evacuated on as a precautionary move as fires raged closer.
Police Chief Roni Alsheich said on Thursday that only those in neighborhoods affected should leave their homes, in order to leave important traffic arteries free for those who need to evacuate quickly, as well as for the use of emergency services.
Alsheich said residents in neighborhoods which are in need of evacuation would receive automatic SMS notifications.
He added that not all fires will be connected to arson, and said that these rumors will only strengthen the hand of those who seek to cause more terror.