Israel arrests 12 suspected arsonists as massive wildfires force 80,000 to flee

Wildfires in central and northern Israel are burning out of control, forcing 80,000 residents of Haifa to evacuate, say the Israeli police.

Authorities have detained 12 people suspected of arson – most of them Israeli Arabs or Palestinians as it appears that many of the fires were set as part of a terrorist plot.

Reuters:

Firefighters kept battling the flames in wooded hills around Jerusalem and in northern areas on Friday, with support from Palestinian firemen and emergency teams from Greece, Cyprus, Croatia, Italy, Russia and Turkey.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he had also accepted offers of help from Egypt and Jordan.

Netanyahu said arson appeared to be responsible for some fires and accused those behind them of terrorism. Unseasonably dry weather and easterly winds helped kindle the conflagration, which started on Tuesday and stretches across half the country.

Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said a dozen people had been detained either while attempting to set fires or fleeing the area, but he provided no further details.

Internal Security Minister Gilad Erdan said they were "minorities", an allusion to either Arab Israeli citizens or Palestinians. "The highest likelihood is that the motive is nationalistic," Erdan told Army Radio.

The fires are the biggest in the country since 2010, when 44 people were killed in a killed in a massive blaze in the north. Investigators concluded that fire was caused by negligence.

Education Minister Naftali Bennett, leader of a far-right party, said on Thursday the fires could not have been started by Jews and on Friday blamed them on "nationalist terrorists", a reference in Israel to Palestinians.

"There is no coincidental 'wave of fires'," he wrote on Twitter. "There is a nationalist terrorist wave by fire terrorists meant to murder civilians and cause fright."

There has been no official response from Palestinian leaders. But Ayman Odeh, a leading Israeli Arab politician from Haifa, rejected the suggestion Arabs were responsible for arson attacks and accused the Israeli government of taking advantage of the situation to incite against the Arab minority.

Nearly a third of the residents of Haifa, a coastal city of around 250,000 people, including a large Arab population, spent the night in shelters and nearby towns and villages after being ordered to leave on Thursday in the face of walls of flame.

Smoke billowed over the city on Friday morning as firefighters worked to douse the remaining fires. City officials said the situation was under control but that at least 700 homes had been badly damaged or destroyed.

It appears that the terrorists in Israel took advantage of naturally occurring wildfires and deliberately set more of them.  Whether by strategic design or horrible luck, the fires converged into several conflagrations.

The goal was to overwhelm firefighters, which they were successful in doing.

This kind of terrorist tactic could be even more successful in the U.S.  Wildfires are a regular occurrence in the U.S., and a small group of terrorists who know what they're doing could massively expand some of these fires, making them impossible to control.  At the very least, a super-fire could force the evacuation of hundreds of thousands of people.

As we've seen in Israel, it doesn't take much to augment a naturally occurring fire into a deadly terrorist attack.

Wildfires in central and northern Israel are burning out of control, forcing 80,000 residents of Haifa to evacuate, say the Israeli police.

Authorities have detained 12 people suspected of arson – most of them Israeli Arabs or Palestinians as it appears that many of the fires were set as part of a terrorist plot.

Reuters:

Firefighters kept battling the flames in wooded hills around Jerusalem and in northern areas on Friday, with support from Palestinian firemen and emergency teams from Greece, Cyprus, Croatia, Italy, Russia and Turkey.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he had also accepted offers of help from Egypt and Jordan.

Netanyahu said arson appeared to be responsible for some fires and accused those behind them of terrorism. Unseasonably dry weather and easterly winds helped kindle the conflagration, which started on Tuesday and stretches across half the country.

Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said a dozen people had been detained either while attempting to set fires or fleeing the area, but he provided no further details.

Internal Security Minister Gilad Erdan said they were "minorities", an allusion to either Arab Israeli citizens or Palestinians. "The highest likelihood is that the motive is nationalistic," Erdan told Army Radio.

The fires are the biggest in the country since 2010, when 44 people were killed in a killed in a massive blaze in the north. Investigators concluded that fire was caused by negligence.

Education Minister Naftali Bennett, leader of a far-right party, said on Thursday the fires could not have been started by Jews and on Friday blamed them on "nationalist terrorists", a reference in Israel to Palestinians.

"There is no coincidental 'wave of fires'," he wrote on Twitter. "There is a nationalist terrorist wave by fire terrorists meant to murder civilians and cause fright."

There has been no official response from Palestinian leaders. But Ayman Odeh, a leading Israeli Arab politician from Haifa, rejected the suggestion Arabs were responsible for arson attacks and accused the Israeli government of taking advantage of the situation to incite against the Arab minority.

Nearly a third of the residents of Haifa, a coastal city of around 250,000 people, including a large Arab population, spent the night in shelters and nearby towns and villages after being ordered to leave on Thursday in the face of walls of flame.

Smoke billowed over the city on Friday morning as firefighters worked to douse the remaining fires. City officials said the situation was under control but that at least 700 homes had been badly damaged or destroyed.

It appears that the terrorists in Israel took advantage of naturally occurring wildfires and deliberately set more of them.  Whether by strategic design or horrible luck, the fires converged into several conflagrations.

The goal was to overwhelm firefighters, which they were successful in doing.

This kind of terrorist tactic could be even more successful in the U.S.  Wildfires are a regular occurrence in the U.S., and a small group of terrorists who know what they're doing could massively expand some of these fires, making them impossible to control.  At the very least, a super-fire could force the evacuation of hundreds of thousands of people.

As we've seen in Israel, it doesn't take much to augment a naturally occurring fire into a deadly terrorist attack.

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