With brush fires continuing to wreak havoc across the country for a fourth day Friday, The Times of Israel live-blogged the news as it developed.
Residents told to leave as fire nears Harashim in north
Residents in the southern part of the town of Harashim are being told to leave their homes as a wildfire burning in the area moves towards a residential section in the northern Galilee community.
Two arrested on arson suspicions over Beit Meir blaze
Two suspects have been arrested in connection with a fire that sparked overnight, burning several homes in the town of Beit Meir outside Jerusalem, police say.
Both suspects are in Israel illegally, police say.
Firefighters have managed to beat the flames back from the village, but the fire is still burning in the surrounding forest.
The arrests come as officials say suspicions are growing that at least some of the fires burning around the country were set intentionally, as nationalistically motivated arson.
Rahat resident accused of inciting arson attacks
The son of a senior member of the Islamic Movement in Israel has been arrested over allegations he incited nationalistic arson, the Ynet news website reports.
According to the report, the 24-year-old Rahat resident wrote on Facebook that “many wooded areas have not been touched by fires. We need to call on the disruptive among our youth to do what needs to be done.”
On Thursday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed harsh penalties for anyone setting “terror-fires” intentionally. Israel has also cracked down on social media posts considered inciting toward violence in recent years.
According to the report, another 13 people have been arrested on suspicion of setting fires.
Harashim fire reported under control
Channel 2 reports that the fire in Harashim has been brought under control. There is no official word from the fire service or other officials.
A total of 15 firefighting teams were sent to the northern town to extinguish the blaze.
Firefighters working to keep flames from Route 1
Firefighters in the area of Sha’ar Hagai west of Jerusalem are working to keep a wildfire from spreading toward Route 1, a main artery linking the capital to Tel Aviv, Army Radio reports.
The highway remains open.
Elsewhere, firefighters are working on tamping down other smoldering fires and keeping them from flaring up, as well as looking out for fresh blazes.
Haifa residents kept from homes as recovery process begins
With some 700 homes damaged in Haifa fires Thursday, residents there, while not yet allowed to return home, are beginning the process of picking up the pieces.
Some 60,000 have yet to return to their homes as police forces and firefighting units were still heavily deployed in the Haifa area for fear that the fire could be reignited due to the rare dry, windy weather.
A senior police official tells the Ynet news site several people were caught looting homes that had been evacuated overnight.
“Right now the effort is to return as many people as possible back to their normal lives before the weekend,” the official says. “To make sure as many as possible can return home and so that those who can’t will receive aid from welfare and city officials.”
Israeli radio and TV reports are packed with interviews with people describing the fires that damaged their homes, what they lost and what they managed to save.
“I rushed home and saved the album with pictures of my parents, that was the only important thing for me,” one Haifa resident tells Ynet. “There’s damage, not a lot, but I’m still crying. … It’s sad to see the damage but we are strong.”
Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon tells the Walla news site that those affected will be put up in hotels on the government’s dime and be given immediate aid, before they begin the process of assessing damage and handing out compensation, saying that they likely fall in the same category as terror victims.
“We agreed with the Tax Authority to open a special hotline for anyone affected, who will say what they need, where they live, and we will send an assessor,” he says. “There will be time to calculate [damages] — now we need to give immediate assistance to residents. The state will take responsibility for any nationalistic or terror attack and unfortunately, it seems this is going in that direction.”
The country’s leaders have raised the possibility that Arab assailants had intentionally set the blazes. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has blamed Palestinian incitement for fueling those attacks.
Police Commissioner Roni Alsheich established a special investigative unit on Thursday to determine the cause of the fires and help locate arsonists. Earlier Thursday, he acknowledged arson “in some cases… presumably out of nationalistic motives.”
— AP contributed
Residents of Denya neighborhood in Haifa okayed to return home
Residents of the Haifa neighborhood of Denya are being allowed to return to their homes, Hebrew media reports.
Tens of thousands of residents of other neighborhoods in the city are still being told to stay away, amid fears fires could flare up again.
However officials say they hope all residents will be okayed to return by tomorrow.
Denya, in the upper part of the city, was one of the last neighborhoods to evacuate. It is also where Haifa Mayor Yona Yahav lives.
Fires start back up in Haifa
High winds have revived at least two smoldering fires in Haifa in the last several minutes.
The fires are near the neighborhoods of Romema and Ramat Eshkol.
Army Radio reports that two airplanes are dropping fire retardant on the blazes.
Romema was among the most badly damaged neighborhoods in fires that ravaged the city on Thursday.
Fresh Haifa fires said to be under control
Both new fires in Haifa are under control, Channel 10 reports.
In Ramat Eshkol, though the fire was quite small, because of its proximity to Carmel Hospital, extra firefighters were dispatched there, as well as Croatian firefighting planes, the channel reports.
Israel accepts planes, firetrucks from Egypt, Jordan
Egypt and Jordan will send aid to Israel to help the country fight the rash of wildfires, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says.
Egypt will send two planes and Jordan will send firetrucks, after Israel accepted offers of help from the two neighbors.
The nearly unprecedented development follows help offered by the Palestinian Authority and accepted by Israel Thursday.
Netanyahu is currently touring thee village of Beit Meir, where several homes were severely damaged by fire overnight.
רה"מ מקבל כעת סקירה מהצוותים בשטח pic.twitter.com/PQPoDDgHTo
— אריאל זיגלר (@ArielZigler) November 25, 2016
He’s joined by Public Security Gilad Erdan.
Evacuated residents there are being told to stay away from their homes.
Egypt sending chopper, not planes — PMO
A statement from the Prime Minister’s Office corrects that Egypt will be sending two firefighting helicopters to Israel and not planes, as previously reported by Netanyahu.
MKs call for release of man arrested for sarcastic arson ‘incitement’
Arab-Israeli lawmakers are calling for the immediate release of a resident of the predominantly Bedouin town of Rahat in southern Israel, who was arrested on suspicion of inciting arson on his Facebook page.
Arab lawmakers Ahmad Tibi and Ayman Odeh of the Joint (Arab) List party say the police misunderstood the Facebook post that led to the man’s arrest.
The Facebook Post, read by The Times of Israel, was written in overly dramatic language, and meant to be sarcastic derision of those actually doing the incitement.
In the post, he calls for a boycott of Turkey for helping Israel to put out the fire, and calls for hooligans to make sure fires burn every forest in Israel.
At the bottom of the post, the writer concludes with a hashtag “Sarcasm, not serious.”
The man arrested has a bachelor’s degree in economics, a master’s degree in communications and teaches photography to youths in his town.
Odeh said he is working to gain the release of other Arabs he believes were unjustly arrested in connection to suspected arson attacks in Israel that have led to massive fires sweeping across northern and central Israel.
“Only during dark times in history, such as in the old days in Europe, are minorities blamed unjustly, before the facts and truth are checked,” Odeh said in a statement.
There is no immediate response from police.
— Dov Lieber
Haifa mayor: Stay away until city recovers
Haifa Mayor Yona Yahav says the evacuation of some 60,000 residents on Thursday was the largest mass civilian mobilization in the country’s history.
He advises people to stay away from the city until it has time to recover, and also says evacuated residents should not return home, though Hebrew media reported earlier that residents of the Denya neighborhood — where Yahav himself lives — had been cleared by officials to return.
Twenty-six people are still hospitalized with light injuries and smoke inhalation, according to the radio station.
Many evacuated Haifa residents cleared to return
Residents of several more Haifa neighborhoods on the city’s southeastern slope have been given the all clear to return home, police say.
The neighborhoods are :Ramat Alon, Ramot Remez, Ramat Golda, Ramat Begin, Ramot Hen and Ramat Almogi, except those living on Einstein Street.
Police, firefighters and city officials will remain on hand in the singed city as recovery efforts continue.
Earlier, Denya residents were cleared to go back home.
Residents of four more neighborhoods, including Romema and Ramat Sapir, are still waiting for the all clear to return home.
Netanyahu holds high-level meeting about firefighting planes
Netanyahu is holding a meeting with several other top officials at the Hazor air base on the use of Israeli and foreign firefighting airplanes, his office says.
The meeting is attended by Erdan, Culture Minister Miri Regev, National Seurity Adviser Yaakov Nagel, Police chief Roni Alsheich, Air Force chief Amir Eshel and deputy fire chief Shimon Ben Ner.
Netanyahu is expected to give a statement in the coming minutes.
Earlier, Netanyahu toured the fire-ravaged community of Beit Meir and spent much of the time there talking up the importance of firefighting airplanes, noting that purchasing them was not a priority listed by a state report that looked into the Carmel forest fire disaster of 2010.
“It’s impossible to fight fire without firefighters like you, and it’s heroic, you stand on the line of fire, and but there’s isn’t any forest fire or brush fire that taken care of effectively anywhere around the world, without firefighting planes,” he told a group of firefighters, according to a statement from his office.
Homes evacuated as fire breaks out near Ya’ad
Residents of the small town of Ya’ad in the upper Galilee are being told to leave their homes after a brush fire spread toward the inhabited area.
Police says 15 homes have been evacuated.
Brush fire battled outside Netanya-area town
Firefighters are working on extinguishing a brush fire near the small town of Geulim, in the Sharon region east of Netanya, Ynet news reports.
A small fire near the West Bank settlement of Yitzhar has also reportedly been brought under control, according to reports.
Ya’ad fire under control — police
Police say the fire near Ya’ad in the Upper Galilee has been brought under control.
Evacuated residents are cleared to return to their homes.
All Haifa residents cleared to return home
Police say all Haifa residents are now cleared to return home, though some streets are without electricity.
Officers will continue to patrol the area to aid any of the evacuated residents who need help, a police statement says.
“The public is asked to continue to be alert and take personal responsibility and show an abundance of caution when dealing with anything related to using fire and fire safety,” the statement reads.
Netanyahu: Anyone who tries to burn the state will be punished severely
Benjamin Netanyahu is now giving a press statement at the Hazor air base, backed by several firefighting planes.
He thanks the international community for their help and threatens to pursue any arsonists responsible for the blazes, saying there’s no doubt some fires were set intentionally.
“The police are working extra hours in order to prosecute anyone who sets a fire, for all to see. Anyone who tries to burn the State of Israel will be severely punished,” he says. “There is a price for crime, a price for arson terror, and we will make sure to levy it.”
He also says he and other officials are looking at how to continue fighting the fires.
“When the super-tanker arrives, we will have a discussion with the American pilots about continuing operations,” he says, referring to a US firefighting plane expected to arrive later today.
Minister calls to revoke citizenship of arsonists
Culture Minister Miri Regev, also speaking at Hazor air base, says anyone convicted of arson should have their citizenship revoked.
“Whoever burns this land can’t be a resident of this land,” she says.
Firefighters from US to be dispatched to Israel — report
Dozens of firefighters from the US will make their way to Israel to bolster the country’s own forces, exhausted after four days of intense firefighting efforts around the country, according to Channel 2.
The move is part of a deal worked out between Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan and US officials.
According to the report, 50 firefighters with experience battling large blazes will be deployed to Israel, where they will be dispatched as needed.
Israel’s firefighting services are already stretched thin after four days of battling blazes and rain is not forecast until Tuesday, meaning the rash of wildfires, fed by dry, windy conditions, could last another several days.
Jerusalemite carrying ‘things for setting fires’ held on arson suspicions
Erdan has also confirmed that Israel has arrested another arson suspect beyond the 13 reported before.
The minister says the suspect is from the east Jerusalem neighborhood of Abu Tor and was found “carrying on his person things which are used for setting fires.”
Remand extended for 4 arson suspects
The remand of four people suspected of setting fires in northern Israel has been extended, Channel 10 reports.
A 42-year-old man from the Galilee will be held until Monday, and two minors and another person suspected of arson will be held until tomorrow.
The 42-year-old detainee is suspected of having deliberately started a fire in the vicinity of the village of Sajur in the Galilee. The man denies involvement with the crime.
Free travel in Carmel Tunnels toll road for Haifa residents
Haifa residents are being allowed to travel free of charge in the Carmel Tunnels – usually a toll road – from Friday at 1 p.m. to Saturday at 8 p.m.
Residents of the city who are not toll subscribers will be asked to present IDs when they enter the tunnels, the Walla news website reports.
The tunnels connect two sides of the hillside city.
Arson incitement suspect’s remand extended by one day
The remand of Anas Abu Dabas, 24, from the predominantly-Bedouin town of Rahat, was extended today by one day at the Beersheba Magistrate’s Court, the Walla news site reports.
Abu Dabas is suspected of posting inciting comments calling for arson on his Facebook page. He was arrested by police last night.
However, Israeli Arab lawmakers say his post was misunderstood and meant to be “sarcastic.”
Fresh forest blaze in Jerusalem Hills
A fresh forest fire is burning near the community of Ma’ale Hahamisha in the Jerusalem Hills.
Firefighting teams are scrambling to douse the flames and firefighting planes are flying overhead.
‘Dozens’ of teams scrambled to new Jerusalem Hills fire
A forest fire that broke out today in the Ma’ale Hahamisha area is expanding and progressing toward the nearby community of Nataf, which has already been hit by a blaze that started Tuesday.
Many firefighting teams have been scrambled to the scene, including 20 planes.
The planes dispatched from neighboring countries and other allies of Israel are also said to be en route to the site.
None of the houses in Ma’ale Hahamisha or in Nataf are in danger, police say.
Two other large fires broke out in the West Bank, in Dolev and near Shaked. Palestinian and Israeli firefighters are battling the flames there and in other locations in the West Bank.
— Judah Ari Gross contributed to this report.
Firefighters say Molotov cocktail may have started Jerusalem hills blaze
Firefighters are examining suspicions that the fire in the Ma’ale Hahamisha area started after assailants hurled a Molotov cocktail, the Walla news website reports.
Residents of the outlying homes in the community of Nataf were asked to evacuate their homes, as a large fire blazes near the Jerusalem Hills community.
Earlier, police said no homes in the area were in danger.
–Judah Ari Gross
All homes in Nataf evacuated due to new forest fire
All homes in the community of Nataf are being evacuated due to the forest fire nearby, Israel Police says.
— Judah Ari Gross
3 from Arab village in north arrested for suspected arson
Police arrest three suspects from an Arab village in northern Israel on suspicion of starting a fire in the area of Alon Hagalil, a community in the Lower Galilee.
Their remand is extended until Monday by the Nazareth Magistrate Court, the Ynet news website reports.
The detainees’ families say they lit a bonfire in the area of the village and stayed by it until it was doused, and therefore the allegations against them are false.
Arrival of firefighting supertanker slightly delayed
The supertanker firefighting plane will land in Israel from the US at 8 p.m., slightly later than expected.
The massive Boeing 747, modified to serve as a firefighting plane, was earlier expected to land at 6:40 p.m. but its arrival has been delayed, the Walla website reports. The report does not mention the cause of the delay.
Road to Jerusalem hills community closed as fire rages
The access road to Nataf has been closed due to the forest fire raging in the area.
Earlier today, Nataf’s residents were told to evacuate their homes.
Elsewhere, a small fire erupted near Binyamina, in central Israel, but was swiftly contained by firefighters.
Mogherini ‘proud’ of countries that sent help to Israel
The European Union’s foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, says that the union stands by the people of Israel in their time of difficulty, not only in words but also in practical support.
According to Israel Radio, Mogherini is pleased at the number of countries who sent assistance to Israel to fight the fires and says that the European Union will remain in touch with Israeli authorities and help with whatever is necessary.
IDF stands down Home Front Command battalions in Haifa
The IDF is removing two Home Front Command battalions that were deployed yesterday to Haifa to bolster police forces in the city.
The soldiers will return to their bases and remain on alert, the Ynet news website reports.
Famed Nataf restaurant damaged in forest fire
One home and a popular restaurant have been severely damaged in the fire near Nataf in the Jerusalem hills.
Patrons of Rama’s Kitchen were evacuated earlier today when the fire began encroaching on the restaurant. Firefighters are still trying to contain the blaze and prevent the fire from damaging more property in the community.
Elsewhere, a man was lightly injured from smoke inhalation from a fire outside Binyamina, in central Israel.
Large brush fire near central Israel community of Mei Ami
A large brush fire erupts near the community of Mei Ami, in the Menashe Regional Council in central Israel.
According to the Walla news website, seven firefighting teams and four firefighting jets are battling the flames. Another report says there are 10 teams and three jets.
No casualties are reported in the fire, which is believed to be the work of arsonists.
Palestinian tries to stab security officer in E. Jerusalem, is killed
A Palestinian man with a knife tries to attack a security official near the checkpoint outside the Shouafat refugee camp in eastern Jerusalem.
The police say he was killed by security forces. No Israelis were hurt.
West Bank rabbi: Fires are punishment for settlement evacuations
A leader of Israeli settlers said that the fires raging in Israel, which officials partly attribute to arsonists, are really divine punishment for the government’s plans to uproot settlements.
Rabbi Elyakim Levanon, of the settler community of Elon Moreh, made the controversial assertion about the 250 fires recorded in recent days in Israel, in a pamphlet published Thursday, the news site Srugim reports.
In his pamphlet, Levanon writes: “Strong winds usually carry rain but now all is dry and flammable. It is G-d’s hand that does it. The Israeli government is delaying the approval of the law for regulation,” he added in reference to a bill designed to legalize Amona and other West Bank outposts deemed illegal.
“Until the disgrace of the threat of eviction is lifted from Amona, Ofra and elsewhere, no rain will fall,” he says.
Firefighters scour homes to make sure Nataf is evacuated; restaurant destroyed
Dozens of firefighting teams are operating in Nataf outside Jerusalem.
According to Ynet, fire-dousing jets have stopped working after nightfall.
Firefighting teams are searching for residents who may have remained at home after an earlier call for a mass evacuation of the community.
The blaze in the area is gathering force.
Army Radio reports that Rama’s Kitchen, a popular local restaurant, has been completely consumed by flames. The owner’s home has also been consumed by the flames.
More homes in the forest community are in danger of burning down.
New fire near Mevo Horon settlement, outside Jerusalem
A new fire erupts near the settlement of Mevo Horon in the Jerusalem hills, the Walla news website reports. Firefighting teams are en route to the site.
Another fire near Beersheba, in southern Israel
A fire erupts in the Dvira Forest, near the community of Dvira in southern Israel. Firefighting teams from Beersheba are at the scene.
Additionally, a fresh fire breaks out near Beit Meir, outside Jerusalem. Earlier today, firefighters put out a fire in Beit Meir.
Home of restaurant owner destroyed in Nataf fire
Rama Ben Zvi, the owner of Rama’s Kitchen in Nataf, loses not only her famed restaurant in the fire, but also part of her home, according to Ynet.
Earlier in the day, a wedding party evacuated the restaurant before it was consumed in the blaze.
Firefighters believe the fire erupted after a assailant threw a petrol bomb outside Nataf. The assailant is believed to be a resident of the adjacent Palestinian village of Katana.
Beit Meir fire contained, says fire service
Firefighters succeed in containing the fires near Beit Meir and Rekhes Khalilim, near Mevasseret Zion outside Jerusalem.
Both communities are out of danger, fire and rescue services say.
Police asks public to avoid Menashe forest areas
Police asks the public to avoid going to parks and nature reserves in the Menashe area in northern Israel, as the threat of forest fires remains.
A large fire was doused earlier today in the Ein Hashofet area and police decided to reopen Road 6953 for traffic, the Walla news website reports.
US supertanker firefighting plane lands in Israel
A US supertanker — the world’s largest firefighting plane — lands at Ben Gurion International Airport.
Channel 2 reports that the plane, a modified Boeing 747 passenger jet, will likely be ready for deployment by tomorrow morning.
Housing minister announces damaged property hotline
Housing Minister Yoav Galant announces the opening of a hotline for citizens whose homes were damaged by the fires.
According to the minister, the hotline will help victims who lost their homes or property in a fire to find host families or donated furniture.
The hotline can be reached by phone at *6266, or on the Facebook page “New Amidar.”
Property assessors to evaluate damage to Haifa homes
Haifa Mayor Yona Yahav and Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon say property assessors will come to Haifa immediately after the fires are put out to evaluate the damage caused to some 700 homes, Army Radio reports.
Earlier today, 60,000 residents of the city were allowed to return home.
Small fire erupts in Haifa’s Hadar neighborhood
A small-scale fire erupted in the Hadar neighborhood of Haifa, the Walla news website reports.
According to reports, firefighters have contained the blaze.
Haifa resident says city failed to create forest buffer zone
Haifa resident Yehudit Tzenner says that the municipality failed to act on its promises and create a barrier between the woods and the homes of the outlying Haifa neighborhood where she lives.
“We had a neighbor… and he warned about this forest as a danger – and it did happen. These woods were set alight and they set fire to everything else,” says Tzenner, a tenant of a building that was destroyed in the fire.
She tells the Ynet news website that it will take “months and tens of thousands of shekels” to restore these homes.
A preliminary examination by the Haifa Municipality reveals that at least 412 homes in the city were damaged beyond repair and are unlivable, leaving more than 1,000 people effectively homeless.
Tzenner says her family has rented another house and is in the process of moving.
Nataf residents told not to return home tonight
Most of the fires in Nataf have been extinguished, but police and firefighters say residents are not yet allowed to return to their homes.
Channel 10 reports that there are still many firefighters at the scene working to extinguish the last remaining flames.
Rama Ben Zvi tells Channel 10 about her experience from the fire that destroyed her restaurant. “I saw a plume of smoke and immediately realized where it was coming from. I just started crying.”
Another fire breaks out near Netanya
A new fire breaks out between Kibbutz Bahan and Zemer, about 20 kilometers (8 miles) west of the coastal city of Netanya in central Israel, the Walla news website reports.
Police are at the scene and say they may close the access road to Zemer.
150 firefighters still battling Nataf, Ma’ale Hahamisha fires
Some 150 firefighters are still at Nataf as fires subside there. But the Jerusalem firefighting and rescue service says there is still a risk to homes in the north-western part of the community.
The road leading to Nataf remains closed.
Officials say there are 12 firefighting teams still putting out flames at the entry to nearby Ma’ale Hahamisha.
Watch: Police operation in Nataf
Watch Israel Police officers go door to door in Nataf, near Jerusalem, looking for remaining residents to be evacuated.
Wadi Ara fire contained
Firefighters succeed in controlling a fire near Umm al Fahm, in Wadi Ara in central Israel, the Walla news website reports.
The fire started earlier this afternoon.
Palestinians hurl firebomb at settlement, sparking fires
Palestinians hurl three Molotov cocktails toward Alfei Menashe, a settlement in the West Bank, starting three small fires that are quickly doused.
No casualties are reported in the incident.
Two homes damaged in fire at Halamish settlement
A fire in the central West Bank is encroaching on homes in the settlement of Halamish. Police and firefighters are beginning the process of evacuating residents from their homes there.
According to the Walla news website, two homes in the settlement were damaged by the fire.
New fire breaks out in Nazareth; some homes evacuated
A fire breaks out near the Fakhoura neighborhood of Nazareth, in northern Israel.
Police say that given the proximity of the flames to residential buildings, they decided to evacuate the first row of homes closest to the source of the fire.
In addition, roads inside the neighborhood are blocked. Firefighters are at the scene.
Halamish entirely evacuated after fire reaches electricity poles
The entire settlement of Halamish is being evacuated after several electricity poles in the West Bank settlement were damaged by fire.
Earlier this evening two outlying homes in the community were evacuated.
Nazareth fire under control, no injuries
A fire in Nazareth is brought under control by firefighters, shortly after it broke out in the Fakhoura neighborhood of the northern city.
Residents are permitted to return to their homes and the incident ends without any injuries, the Hebrew-language media reports.
10 homes in Halamish burning
Ten homes in the West Bank settlement of Halamish have gone up in flames after its 1,200 residents were ordered to evacuate. Sixteen firefighting teams are battling the blaze.