Israel Fires: Tens of Thousands Flee; Arson Suspected

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Tens of thousands of people are being evacuated as wildfires rage through parts of the Israeli city of Haifa, the third largest in the country. On social media, the Arabic-language hashtag #Israel_on_fire began trending, with most tweets expressing pleasure over the outbreak.

Huge flames are being fanned by strong winds in residential areas in the north of the city of about 250,000.

“It’s likely that where it was arson, it goes in the direction of nationalistic. I don’t want to disturb the investigation.”

— Roni Alsheich

Fires are also threatening homes near Jerusalem and in the West Bank.

Israel’s police chief said arson was suspected in some cases and hinted that some of it could be politically motivated.

“It’s likely that where it was arson, it goes in the direction of nationalistic,” Roni Alsheich told reporters, adding: “I don’t want to disturb the investigation.”

Map showing Haifa

“Haifa Mayor Yonah Yahav said there were indications that one of the fires started when ‘someone tossed a cigarette in an area full of oil and flammable fluids’ in an industrial zone.”

Education Minister Naftali Bennett, leader of the right-wing religious Jewish Home party, said on Twitter in Hebrew: “Only those to whom the country does not belong are capable of burning it.”

On social media, the Arabic-language hashtag #Israel_on_fire began trending, with most tweets expressing pleasure over the outbreak.

Haifa Mayor Yonah Yahav said there were indications that one of the fires started when “someone tossed a cigarette in an area full of oil and flammable fluids” in an industrial zone.

Four Palestinians have been arrested in connection with a fire near Jerusalem and are due to appear in court on suspicion of starting a bonfire negligently.

Car passing fire in Haifa

Months of dry weather have left the country vulnerable to fires – Reuters

“Four Palestinians have been arrested in connection with a fire near Jerusalem and are due to appear in court on suspicion of starting a bonfire negligently.”

The Palestinian Authority has offered to help Israel’s fire department, a senior Israeli security official told the BBC, but has not yet received a reply.

Meanwhile, hundreds of military reservists have been called up to help battle the three-day outbreak of fires. Read the rest of this entry »


ISRAEL ELECTION LIVE BLOG: Likud Cements Victory with Nearly All Votes Counted

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With nearly all votes counted, Benjamin Netanyahu’s Lkud party is set to emerge as the election’s big winner with 29 seats. The Zionist Union trails behind with 24 seats. The Joint List of Arab parties is the third-largest party at this point, followed by Yesh Atid, Kulanu, Habayit Hayehudi, Shas, Yisrael Beiteinu, United Torah Judaism, Meretz and Yahad.

President Reuven Rivlin said he would work for a national unity government.

Ballots were cast at 10,372 polling stations throughout Israel. Read the rest of this entry »