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Israel ‘Is Burning’… Parliamentarians Call it ‘Arson Intifada’ | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Israeli firefighters help extinguish a fire engulfing homes in the Israeli port city of Haifa. Picture: AFP/Jack Guez

Tel Aviv, Ramallah- Israel’s security apparatus announced on Thursday a state of emergency following the wildfires that raged across the country in the past two days.

Around 200 blazes registered until Thursday night had left more than 100 people suffering from smoke inhalation, while the Civil Defense forces evacuated tens of thousands of residents from their houses.

The Haifa University and an engineering institute in the northern city were also evacuated while a plan was placed to evacuate a prison in the area.

Speaking to reporters near a blaze in Haifa, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said: “Every fire that was caused by arson, or incitement to arson, is terrorism by all accounts. And we will treat it as such.”

Netanyahu did not elaborate on the identity or motives of the suspected arsonists, but said that his government “found some people supporting the fires on the social media.”

The Israeli Intelligence was investigating what happened after reports said half the blazes were caused by arson. The fingers of accusations were directed towards Arabs from the Palestinians of 1948 and those from the West Bank.

Parliamentarians from Israel’s right were quick to label the wave of fires an “arson intifada,” alluding to a Palestinian uprising.

Police Chief Roni Alsheich said there had been a small number of arrests, providing no other details.

A number of countries made immediate pledges of support. Three firefighting aircrafts were sent by Greece, one from Cyprus and one from Turkey, according to Netanyahu’s office.

The office added that other planes are expected to arrive from Croatia, Italy and Russia.

The Palestinian Authority has decided to offer assistance as well by sending fire engines.

This is not the first time the Palestinian Civil Defense participates in offering support to prevent the spread of fire. In 2010, Palestinians assisted Israel during a deadly wildfire.

Na’el al-Izah, a spokesperson for the Palestinian Civil Defense, said: “The decision to participate in offering help was taken following logistic consultations conducted with the Palestinian government.”