Israel fires: 80 thousand people evacuated. Netanyahu blames terrorism

The city of Haifa in the north engulfed. Drought and strong winds in the region have fed the fires. The flames also lapping Jerusalem and part of the West Bank. At least 130 people hospitalized, most for intoxication. Police have opened an investigation, Shin Bet also involved. For Mahmoud Abbas Israel is exploiting the fires to blame Palestinians.


Jerusalem (AsiaNews / Agencies) - At least 80 thousand people have fled their homes because of the fires that have reached the city of Haifa, in northern Israel and third most important in the country. For over two months the region has been wrecked by drought, which has fed the spread of fires fueled by strong winds in recent days in the area. The flames threaten to engulf Jerusalem and part of the West Bank.

So far, at least 130 people have been transported to hospital for minor injuries, in particular for smoke inhalation. After basic treatment, most of the patients were discharged without further complications.
Authorities have evacuated two prisons near Haifa. 300 students in a school near Talmon, a Jewish settlement in the West Bank, have also been evacuated. Several homes and cars were damaged by the flames, which continue to rage despite the massive intervention of the teams of firefighters.

According to the head of the Israeli police some of the fires are of suspicious origin. Shin Bet, the intelligence agency for the of Israel State Affairs, are also involved in inquiries.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has called these attacks - if proven - of a terrorist nature. "Any fire that is the result of arson or an attempt to cause a fire - said the prime minister - is an act of terror and will be treated as such. "Anyone who tries to burn part of the state of Israel - he concluded - will be severely punished."

Even harsher words of the ultra-right leader Naftali Bennett, Minister of Education of the Netanyahu government, the head of the religious Jewish Home party which points the finger at Arabs and Palestinians. "Only those who do not belong to this land - wrote on Twitter are able to burn".

It should be noted, however, that the flames - as well as having done damage in Lebanon - have now also lapped the Palestinian territories, where it triggering an emergency situation and more (possible) evacuations.

The words of the Israeli government leaders have provoked the indignant reaction of the Palestinian Authority. President Mahmoud Abbas, leader of Fatah, said that Israel "is exploiting the fires" to accuse the Palestinians and throw further fuel on the fire of the conflict. "What is burning  are our trees and our land of historic Palestine" the Palestinian leader said in a statement.

Meanwhile the hashtag (in Arabic) #Israel_on_fire is trending on social media. Most Arabs and Palestinians comments seem to be pleased by the fires.

The Israeli Minister for Public Security Gilad Erdan announced the arrest of eight people, without giving further details. According to the senior official at least half of the fires are suspect, and there could be suspicious origin. The police found "materials and flammable liquids poured in some areas". "We must prepare ourselves - he added - to [fight] a new form of terrorism."

In 2010, 42 people died in a fire on Mount Carmel, south of Haifa.