Police detain 23 on suspicion of arson in connection with wildfires

Police detain 23 on suspicion of arson in connection with wildfires

More than 1,800 apartments were destroyed in the northern city of Haifa and more than 500 could no longer be used, Israeli radio said Sunday.

According to spokesman for Israel's Fire and Rescue Services, Yoram Levi, firefighters have dealt with more than 250 large fires since last weekend. "We have no new activity".

Fire officials suspect a firebomb thrown from the Palestinian village Katane caused a major fire that broke out Friday west of Jerusalem in the Judean Hills, the Israeli daily Haaretz reported.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said some of the fires roaring around the country were the result of "terror", an apparent reference to Arab or Palestinian assailants.

Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman said Sunday 17 of 110 fires in the West Bank were so far determined to be arson, without elaborating.

Speaking at the Israeli settlement of Halamish, where dozens of homes were damaged at the weekend, he said Israel should respond to any arson by building more settlement homes.

Israeli police said they had detained four Palestinians believed to have started the fire, although it was not clear whether it was on objective or by negligence.

Palestinian firefighting crews were dispatched from the West Bank to help efforts in Haifa, the BBC said.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas's Fatah movement charged Israeli officials were "exploiting the fire" to accuse Palestinians, BBC News reported.

Police detain 23 on suspicion of arson in connection with wildfires
Police detain 23 on suspicion of arson in connection with wildfires

He said that if the fires were started by arsonists, those responsible "will be punished gravely". In front of arsonist terror we are also facing incitement and also arson.

Israeli police have arrested four Palestinians in connection with one of several large fires that damaged homes and prompted the evacuation of thousands of people over the past few days.

Police chief Roni Alsheich said if the fires were started deliberately it was "safe to assume.it is politically-motivated".

He alleged arson was the cause, calling it "an act of war".

Faced for the past four days with blazes across the country fed by drought and high winds, Israel received airborne assistance from Russia, Turkey, Greece and Croatia.

Palestinians had joined the efforts, sending 41 firefighters and eight trucks.

Unlike Rabbi Eliyahu, another leading religious figure, Rabbi Elyakim Levanon, is sure that the fires are divine punishment sent by God, who is unhappy that the Regulation bill aimed at legalizing outposts in the West Bank, has not been passed yet.

Foreign firefighting planes on Friday helped Israel tackle a wave of wildfires that have forced tens of thousands to flee their homes, as police announced a dozen related arrests.

Police also said that although much of the evidence was destroyed by the fires, they were using forensic samples to determine whether the fires were ignited intentionally.

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