Multiple fires cover Israel, some allegedly caused by Palestinians

Written by on October 10, 2020

Some 5,000 residents of Nof HaGalil were reportedly forced to evacuate their homes • fire engulfs houses in Kfar HaOranim near Modi’in Illit • Fire Department: “There is no control over the fire.”

A fire engulfs a house in the city of Nof HaGalil, October 9, 2020. (photo credit: POLICE SPOKESPERSON'S UNIT)

A fire engulfs a house in the city of Nof HaGalil, October 9, 2020.

(photo credit: POLICE SPOKESPERSON’S UNIT)

Multiple fires broke out in several areas across Israel on Friday, with thousands of residents force to evacuate their homes. While most fires are believed to have been caused due to extreme heat conditions, officials in the Israeli security establishment raised concerns that some fires in the West Bank were the result of deliberate arson by Palestinians.

IDF soldiers were recruited to help wildfire containment efforts and evacuate citizens from residential areas of the country that were under threat. 

Friday morning, around 25 fire teams, including volunteers, were called to the area of Kfar HaOranim, located near Modi’in Illit to contain wildfires in the area, which engulfed a number of houses. Air support also arrived, and rescue services requested that residents of the village evacuate. 

The amount of emergency service workers was not enough, however, and a request was sent for more fire teams and air support in addition to teams already at the scene. The fire department released a statement that read: “There is no control over the fire.”

Police arrived to the scene for the purpose of evacuating people from their homes, and a special unit was opened to coordinate all arriving security and aide forces.

Later Friday afternoon, IDF soldiers from the Ephraim Regional Brigade were recruited to help contain the wildfire and continue evacuation efforts, and the area underwent an assessment by commander of the brigade, Col. Yiftach Norkin.

A wildfire near Kfar HaOranim near Modi'in Illit engulfs several houses, October 9, 2020. (Ori Lewis)A wildfire near Kfar HaOranim near Modi’in Illit engulfs several houses, October 9, 2020. (Ori Lewis)

Meanwhile, another wildfire broke out near the village of Umm-al-Qutuf and another near the village of Umm al-Fahm. 

Police officers and fire services arrived at the area, in addition to air support, in attempts to contain the fire and protect the residents of the villages. 

Citizens in this villages were also evacuated, traffic redirected and security forces were directed to the area using police helicopters. 

Fire services work to contain a wildfire in the area of Umm al-Fahm, October 10, 2020. (FIRE AND RESCUE SERVICE)Fire services work to contain a wildfire in the area of Umm al-Fahm, October 10, 2020. (FIRE AND RESCUE SERVICE)

In addition, a fire broke out in the Churchill Forest in the Galilee region. At least seven fire teams arrived to contain the fire, and residents of the city of Nof HaGalil living near the wildfire were requested to evacuate. At least one house was engulfed in flames, and four citizens injured as a result of smoke inhalation.

Some 5,000 residents of Nof HaGalil were reportedly forced to evacuate their homes. 

A smaller fire was also reported near the Illut Tzipori junction, requiring only four fire teams for containment efforts.

More fires were reported in additional areas of the country, including in the West Bank settlement of Mevo Dotan and Bat Hefer. Traffic has been directed away from these areas, and residents in many municipalities have been asked to evacuate their homes.

IDF soldiers were recruited to both of these areas to help contain the fires located in the Menashe Regional Brigade and to help evacuate residents of from both of the areas. 

The Islamic Movement in Israel and the Joint List party established throughout the day an emergency center for providing support to victims of the fires spreading across the area of Nazareth. The center will focus on providing accommodations for residents whose homes were damaged. 

Fire services work to contain a wildfire near Kfar HaOranim, October 10, 2020. (Ori Lewis)Fire services work to contain a wildfire near Kfar HaOranim, October 10, 2020. (Ori Lewis)

Later Friday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu held briefings with Public Security Minister Amir Ohana, acting police commissioner Moti Cohen, Fire Commissioner Dedi Simchi and head of the National Security Council (NSC) Meir Ben-Shabat.

Netanyahu received a briefing from Cohen and suggested considering foreign assistance if the current measures taken are not enough to contain all fires.

Cohen indicated that thanks to assistance from the police and Home Front Command, no such action is necessary at this point.

President Reuven Rivlin took to Twitter to show his support for the firefighters dealing with containing the fires. 

“I’ve been anxiously following the updates on the wild fires spreading across several areas in the country. My heart goes out to the resident who were forced to evacuate their homes during these challenging days.

“I send my sincere support to our firefighters. I see how hard you all are working to contain the spreading fire and pray that the situation ends as soon as possible,” Rivlin tweeted.

 

On Friday evening Israeli media reported that officials in the Israeli security establishment have raised concerns pointing at the possibility of some of the fires in the West Bank breaking out as a result of deliberate arson by Palestinian individuals.  

Efforts are being made to locate any involved suspects.

Joint List leader MK Ayman Odeh addressed the nationwide fires and the reports indicating Palestinian responsibility, blaming the government for neglecting its firefighting services. 

“The fires in northern Israel today, just like the coronavirus, do not differentiate between Jews and Arabs,” Odeh tweeted on Friday. “Before the defense establishment chooses to falsely blame Palestinians, as they have in the past – the government should stop and see how it simply neglected its fire and rescue services, despite increased instances of fires breaking out in recent years.”

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