A large fire erupted in Neot Kedumim, near Ben Shemen, late Friday afternoon. More than 10 firefighting teams and six firefighting planes were battling the fire, and police asked families and travelers to evacuate the area immediately.
The blazes that broke out in Israel this week and earlier in the summer may be a new type of terror tactic being carried out against the Israeli populace, a number of senior officials have said.
An unnamed official told Army Radio that terror cells were responsible for the wave of blazes that have swept across Israel, calling them a “terror attack of fire.”
On Thursday, Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch, who oversees the country’s fire services, called the fires “spontaneous terror.”
A number of large fires were reported around the country Thursday, including in northern town Kiryat Tivon, where five houses were destroyed and thousands evacuated but nobody was injured. There were also large fires in Jerusalem suburb Even Sapir, and near Beit Shemesh. Fire had erupted in many of the same locales on Wednesday.
The blazes are the latest in what has become a busy summer for firefighters, especially around Jerusalem, where brush fires are reported almost daily.
But officials say dry conditions and lack of foresight can’t be the only factor behind the fires.
“Six fires in the same place cannot be caused by negligence,” Haifa fire chief Arie Regev told Yedioth Ahronoth on Thursday.
Police district commander Hagai Dotan ordered a special investigative team to be set up to examine the fires, saying they bore the marks of arson for nationalistic reasons.
“We suspect we are experiencing a wave of nationalistically motivated arsons,” he said. “There is no intelligence to back up the claim but from a national viewpoint a series of fires in Tivon, Jerusalem and Beit Shemesh cannot be coincidental.”
However, the country’s fire chief, Shahar Ayalon, warned that it was too early to say with certainty that the fires were arson or ideologically motivated.
In July, two Palestinians were arrested on suspicion of starting a large fire just west of Jerusalem, which shut down one of the country’s main highways and threatened nearby homes.
The two confessed to the crime, saying they had done it for ideological reasons.