The Times of Israel liveblogged Thursday’s events as they unfolded.
Haifa fire chief: Blaze out of control, residents must evacuate
The head of Haifa’s fire service says the blaze sweeping across much of the city is not under control and local residents must leave at once.
The residents of 11 neighborhoods in the city are told to evacuate, Walla reports.
Tens of thousands in 11 Haifa neighborhoods told to evacuate
The residents of 11 neighborhoods in the city are told to evacuate as a massive blaze burns unchecked throughout the city.
Haaretz newspaper says the evacuation affects tens of thousands of people.
The Israel Prisons Service is making plans to evacuate two prisons, Channel 2 reports.
Haifa mayor: Aim to have fire under control by tonight
Haifa Mayor Yona Yahav says he hopes the fire service will bring the blaze under control by the end of the day, and downplays reports of deliberate fire-setting.
“Some houses have been burned, but not that many, thank God,” he tells Channel 2. “I hope that we’ll have the fires under control by tonight. There are rumors that some of the blazes are arson, but I don’t have definitive proof yet.”
He added: “We ask people not to panic. Not to crowd the roads. Not to spread inaccurate information. And to follow instructions.”
21 hurt, 1 seriously in Haifa blaze
At least 21 people gave been injured, one seriously and 20 lightly, in the fire in Haifa.
Haifa fire began in 5 spots at once — report
Channel 2 says the blaze in Haifa began in five places simultaneously.
The city’s civilian airport has been closed, and balls of flame are said to be closing in on a gas station in the city.
Mayor Yona Yahav says the blaze is also spreading to the Carmel Forest.
Intercity train service halted in Haifa area
Intercity train service is halted in the Haifa area because of fire near the tracks at the city of Caesarea some 30 kilometers away, Channel 2 says.
Greek planes fighting Haifa blaze
Greek firefighting planes are now in the skies above Haifa battling the massive blaze in the city.
Three Turkish planes are also en route to Israel to fight fires.
Home Front troops mobilized to help evacuate Haifa, fight fire
The IDF Home Front Command’s Kedem Battalion is called in to help with the evacuations in the Mount Carmel area, an IDF spokesperson says.
In addition, firefighter reservists in the Home Front Command are also called up to assist in battling other blazes around the country.
VIDEO: Buildings burn in Haifa’s Romema neighborhood
Firefighters are trying to bring under control the massive blaze that is engulfing many areas of Haifa, including the Romema neighborhood.
Magen David Adom: 36 people hurt in Haifa blaze
Magen David Adom rescue service says a total of 36 people — 35 lightly, and one moderately — have been wounded in the Haifa fire and treated by MDA teams.
The injured are taken to the city’s Rambam Hospital and Carmel Medical Center.
MDA personnel are currently evacuating the Fliman old age center in cooperation with the Health Ministry and the Home Front command.
— Judah Ari Gross
New brushfire breaks out at Wadi Ara-area kibbutz
A brushfire breaks out at Kibbutz Barkai near to Wadi Ara in northern Israel.
The fire is heading toward homes in the area, and firefighting units are on their way to the scene, Walla reports.
More residents evacuate as Haifa fire spreads
Police decide to evacuate another neighborhood of Haifa, Denia on Mount Carmel, as the fire in the city spreads.
Rivlin: We will bring to justice those who set the fires
President Reuven Rivlin vows that Israel will find and put on trial anyone who is found to have started one of the blazes currently burning across Israel.
“I am certain that when the investigation gets underway, it will not stop until we bring to justice those who set fires intentionally,” he says.
The president also praises “the firefighters and security forces who are all working tirelessly to save lives, to control the fire, and return all of the residents to their homes.”
Another brushfire breaks out in Modiin
A brushfire breaks out in the city of Modiin, near Jerusalem.
The fire is close to the train station on the outskirts of the city, as well as a parking lot full of cars, Channel 10 says.
Firefighters and police rushed to the scene. The train station is closed.
Security forces: At least some fires are arson with nationalist motive
The security forces suspect that at least some of the numerous fires burning across Israel have been set deliberately, by people with a nationalist motive.
The fire services in the north also believe that many of the blazes, in particular those that broke out this morning, are the result of arson, Haaretz newspaper says.
Arab world celebrates on social media as Israel burns
Some social media users in the Arab world are celebrating as Israel battles with multiple brush fires across the country.
“To the government of Israel I Congratulate you all on the fire that is burning your souls and I wish you all a happy burning day,” writes Twitter user @imsh0 from Saudi Arabia.
“Major fire burning out of control… O Allah burn all Israel as burn our Mosques,” writes another person with the handle @AMY_Go1.
Some people, however, offer prayers and support.
“I am a Saudi citizen and I stand with Israel,” writes Twitter user @Aljwlani.
Electric Corp. declares national emergency
Israel’s Electric Corporation declares a national emergency due to the large number of fires across the country.
Bennett: The fires are terror, we will find perpetrators
Education Minister Naftali Bennett calls the fires breaking out across Israel terrorism in the form of arson and vows to bring those responsible to justice.
“This a major wave of arson… Terrorism in every sense of the word,” Bennett says. He says ministers are to meet on the issue, and that the perpetrators will feel “the full weight of the law.”
Both Modiin train stations closed due to fire
Both train stations in Modiin are now closed due to the brushfire that broke out in the city a short time ago.
Fire breaks out in Sharon region forest, triggering evacuation
A brush fire breaks out in the Horeshim Forest in the Sharon region. The nearby community of Nirit is evacuated, Israel National News reports.
60,000 evacuated so far from Haifa
Some 60,000 people have been evacuated in Haifa so far, Channel 2 says.
The city’s university and the Technion have also been evacuated.
Fire near Jerusalem rapidly approaching highway gas station
The brush fire burning close to Jerusalem is rapidly approaching the gas station at Shaar Hagai on the main highway to Tel Aviv, the Hebrew-language media reports.
Haifa mayor: We are experiencing national disaster
Haifa Mayor Yona Yahav says that the fire burning across his city is a national disaster and calls on any remaining residents of the Carmel area to get out at once.
“A national disaster has reached Haifa,” he tells Army Radio. “We cannot say how many people [are affected] as most of the residents of the Carmel area are at work and not at home. We are asking those who are still at home to evacuate.”
Police hunting suspected arsonists on social media
Police are scouring social media networks in an effort to track down those behind the suspected arson attacks across Israel and their supporters.
Fire breaks out near gas station at entrance to Savyon
Another fire breaks out at the entrance to the tony Savyon area of central Israel.
As in many other cases across the country, the fire is burning close to a gas station, Ynet reports.
Police chief confirms some cases of arson, but doubts organized attack
Police chief Roni Alsheich says some, but not all, of the fires currently burning across Israel are thought to have been caused by arson, and casts doubt on it being an organized attack.
“There are some cases of arson, and lots of cases that are not arson,” he says.
“It’s likely that there is a nationalist motive in some of the arson cases,” he adds, saying that there have been some arrests.
“I don’t think it is organized [arson],” he says. “We’ll investigate as appropriate.”
The police chief also urges anyone still at home to evacuate, and to call the emergency services if they have trouble doing so.
Foreign allies send planes to battle blazes from air
Britain, Croatia, Russia, Greece, Turkey, Cyprus and Italy are sending firefighting aircraft to help Israel battle the numerous fires that are blazing across the country.
According to Walla, Greece sent three planes, Cyprus sent one, Russia and Croatia sent two apiece and Britain sent a firefighting helicopter. According to the Foreign Ministry, Bulgaria and Romania have also sent assistance.
— Israel Foreign Min. (@IsraelMFA) November 24, 2016
Top Arab MK: Now is time for unity, fires hurt us too
Joint (Arab) List leader Ayman Odeh calls for unity in the face of the wave of brush fires burning across Israel, as some officials say the fires were started by those with a “nationalist” agenda.
“Our hearts are broken, now is the time for unity,” Odeh tells Channel 2. “The main thing is to put out the fires.”
He slams accusations that members of the Arab community could be to blame for some of the fires.
“It is a disgrace, Umm al-Fahm is also harmed,” he says. “This is a thing that hurts us all; this is not about Arabs versus Jews. Whoever did this is the enemy of us all.”
Erdan orders crackdown on social media arson incitement
Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan instructs police to locate and bring to justice anyone who is inciting arson on social media.
Erdan is also seeking to prosecute anyone who is celebrating the blazes on social media, Israel Radio says.
Police: Shaar Hagai fire no threat to Jerusalem-Tel Aviv highway
Police spokeswoman Luba Samri says the fire near a gas station at Shaar Hagai on the main Jerusalem-Tel Aviv highway is not a threat to the road, which remains open.
NASA satellite image shows fires burning across Israel
An image of the Middle East taken by a NASA satellite shows some of the fires burning across Israel.
The image, which was tweeted by Channel 10 television, shows smoke rising from the coastal city of Haifa, where hundreds of firefighters are battling blazes across the city.
צילום לווין של נאס"א של ישראל – ניתן לראות את השריפות בחיפה ובשער הגיא pic.twitter.com/XjInkuFfuL
— חדשות 10 (@news10) November 24, 2016
Israeli TV: Most of today’s fires started deliberately
Channel 2, in an unconfirmed report, says most of today’s fires were started deliberately.
It adds that there have been hundreds more incidents of fire in the current period than in the same period last year.
Facebook triggers ‘safety check in’ for Haifa fire
Facebook activates its safety check in feature for Haifa, allowing local residents to let people know if they are safe as fires blaze across the city.
Similar check-ins were also activated after last year’s attacks in Paris, the July 14 attack in Nice and the Orlando nightclub shooting.
350 firefighters battling Haifa blaze
Some 350 firefighters using 115 vehicles are currently working to contain the blazes in Haifa, Ynet reports.
Power cut to Nirit in central Israel after blaze
The Electric Corporation cuts power to the community of Nirit in central Israel after a fire there.
The power cut comes in response to a request by the rescue personnel at the scene, Channel 2 says.
Electric Corp. staff are on standby at the site.
— Tal Schneider (@talschneider) November 24, 2016
No cases of mass brush fires in Israel’s neighbors — TV
Channel 2 analyst Ehud Yaari says there have been no instances of blazes breaking out on a mass scale in Israel’s neighboring countries.
The only exception, he says, is a solitary blaze in Jordan.
Tibi: Stop blaming Arab community for fires
Joint List MK Ahmad Tibi rejects the allegations that members of the Arab community are behind some of the fires currently blazing across Israel.
Israel’s Arabs, he tells Channel 2, are hurting alongside the Jewish population, and “are opening their homes to the residents of Haifa — Jew and Arab.”
Echoing the message of party leader Ayman Odeh, Tibi calls for unity, so that all Israelis can “get through this disaster together.”
He categorically condemns any instances of arson, calling such acts “despicable.”
“You must not set fire to trees,” he says.
IDF cancels troop leave due to wildfires
IDF soldiers in training and in combat units will not be able to go on leave, in the event they are needed to assist the country’s other security and emergency services with the rash of wildfires sweeping across the country, the army says.
This situation will continue “until new orders are given,” the IDF adds.
— Judah Ari Gross
Herzog: Now is time to unite, not point fingers
Zionist Union leader Isaac Herzog calls for unity in the face of the fires burning across the country, as several officials imply that members of the Arab community are to blame for some of the blazes.
“It is important to emphasize that now is not the time for recrimination but rather a moment to work together and take mutual responsibility, helping each other wherever and however required,” he says.
Herzog does acknowledge, however, that some of the fires were the result of arson, which he brands “a new kind of terrorism.”
“The police and law enforcement agencies will find those responsible and swiftly bring them to justice,” he says.
Zionist Union launches scheme to house fire-stricken Israelis
The opposition Zionist Union party launches an online program to help house Israelis left homeless by the fires.
Party leader Herzog says more than one hundred families have offered to host other Israelis. Herzog is on his way to Haifa, where tens of thousands have been evacuated.
PA offers Israel assistance with fighting fires
A Palestinian official says the PA contacted Israeli authorities to offer the use of its firefighting units to battle the fires burning across Israel, Ynet reports.
PM: Every single flame caused by arson is act of terror
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warns that Israel will treat any deliberate fire-setting as an act of terror.
“Every flame caused by arson or incitement to arson is terrorism, and we will treat it as such,” Netanyahu tells reporters in Haifa, where he is inspecting the fire damage to the city caused by blazes that are still burning in some areas.
“Anyone who tries to set fire to parts of Israel will be punished to the full extent of the law,” he says.
The prime minister also praises the “massive effort by firefighters to put out fires, save lives,” and urges the population to heed instructions from emergency personnel.
Erdan: Some arson arrests, we will find those responsible
Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan tells reporters in Haifa that Israel will track down and prosecute anyone who set fires deliberately, or encouraged others to so so.
“A small number of people have been arrested,” Erdan says, calling the wave of intentionally started fires “a new phenomenon.”
“Every single fire will be examined to see whether it was arson, and we bring the full force of the law against those behind it,” Erdan says, adding that the police are also looking for social media who support and encourage the acts of arson.
IDF evacuating military prison near Haifa
The IDF says the Military Police will evacuate its prison located at the foot of Mount Carmel, in light of the wildfire raging through nearby Haifa.
The prisoners — convicted soldiers — will be sent to alternative prisons or, in some cases, released altogether, according to an army statement.
— Judah Ari Gross
PM: Israel mulling use of US supertanker to fight fires
Netanyahu says Israel is looking into the possibility of hiring an American supertanker to fight the fires across the country.
The tanker, a converted Boeing 747, could be in Israel within 24 hours, the prime minister says.
He also says another 10 planes will be arriving from abroad to help with aerial efforts to battle the blazes.
Police bolster presence in Haifa to prevent looting
An extra 800 police officers are being deployed in Haifa to deter looters from raiding areas that have been evacuated.
A small number of people have been arrested so far for looting, according to Walla.
Treasury to hold emergency planning session over fires
Senior Finance Ministry officials will hold an emergency situation assessment this evening in order to decide where best to divert funds to help those affected by the wave of fires and local government bodies assisting them.
Officials from the Prime Minister’s Office and Interior Ministry will also be in attendance, Walla reports.
France sending 2 firefighting planes to Israel
France is sending two planes and firefighting teams to help battle the blazes burning across Israel, in particular in Haifa.
The offer comes after Israel appeals to France, Portugal and Spain for assistance, Ynet reports. It is unclear how Madrid and Lisbon responded.
Foreign Ministry confirms US supertanker en route
The Foreign Ministry confirms that Israel has requested the hire of the US-based Evergreen supertanker to help fight the fires burning across the country.
The tanker, which is a converted Boeing 747, will arrive in 28 hours.
A third Russian plane is also due to arrive, Channel 2 reports.
Fire breaks out in village near Haifa
Fire is raging in the northern artists’ village of Ein Hod, south of Haifa.
Teams of volunteers from the regional council are on the scene helping to extinguish the fire, Ynet says.
Authorities say Shaar Hagai fire wasn’t arson, but Modiin was
Authorities believe that the fire at Shaar Hagai, close to the central Jerusalem-Tel Aviv highway was not caused by arson, but rather spread from a fire in the nearby community of Nataf that began on Tuesday.
However, officials have come to the conclusion that the blaze in Modiin that started earlier today likely was the result of arson, Channel 2 reports.
Multiple areas of Haifa to be without power overnight
The Haifa municipality says multiple neighborhoods will be without power overnight due to the fire burning across the city.
There will be no electricity at least until tomorrow morning, Channel 10 reports.
The areas affected include Ramat Hen, Ramat Sapir, Ramat Almogi, Ramat Begin, Ramat Golda, Horev and Romema.
Firefighters battling blaze at East Jerusalem neighborhood
A fire has broken out in the Shuafat neighborhood of East Jerusalem, police say.
Firefighters and police officers are on the scene, working to gain control over the blaze. Two houses are evacuated, but the fire is “under control and there’s no threat to the structures,” police say.
The fire originated in a field next to the neighborhood, police say. It is not immediately clear what caused it.
“All the possibilities will be investigated in the future,” a police spokesperson says.
“For now, it’s about saving lives.”
— Judah Ari Gross
PMO: 13 foreign planes helping fight fires
The Prime Minister’s Office releases updated information on foreign firefighting planes in operation and due to arrive in Israel.
According to the PMO, there are three planes from Greece and one plane from Cyprus now in operation. One plane from Turkey and two from Croatia are currently due to land; two planes from Italy will arrive at 10:30 p.m. and two from Russian will land at midnight. Two more planes from France are also en route.
Erdan agrees to evacuate Carmel prison
Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan gives permission to the Israel Prisons Service to evacuate Carmel Prison on the southern outskirts of Haifa.
The evacuation is a preemptive move in the event that the fire spreads. The prison currently houses some 270 inmates.
In 2010, dozens of IPS staff perished when their bus caught fire during a massive blaze in the Carmel Forest.
Palestinian arrested trying to set fire near West Bank settlement
IDF soldiers arrested a Palestinian man earlier today as he was attempting to start a fire near the Kochav Ya’akov settlement in the West Bank, an army spokesperson says.
The incident occurred sometime in the afternoon, though the IDF declines to specify an exact time.
— Judah Ari Gross
Israeli TV: Over 50% of current wave of fires caused by arson
Channel 2 correspondent Moshe Nussbaum quotes officials as saying that more than 50 percent of the fires currently burning in Israel were caused by arson.
Erdan: Situation under control across the country
Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan says the situation across the country is “under control,” but warns that those who deliberately started fires will punished.
“There is no difference between arson and incitement to commit terrorism,” he says.
Israeli TV: Erdan says there is footage of arson attacks
Channel 2 television reports that Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan said off-camera after providing a situation update tonight that there is footage of some of the acts of arson that caused a proportion of the fires now burning across the country.
Islamic Movement offers help to all Israelis affected by fire
The Islamic Movement offers assistance to Israelis evacuated due to the fires burning across the country. The group says the offer extends to “every citizen of the country — Arabs, Christians and Jews — without differentiation.”
“Dozens of families from the Arab population are ready to host families affected hurt by the fires in Haifa and [around] the country, Jew and Arab alike,” says the group, which works to advance Islam in Israel.
Firefighters bring Shaar Hagai blaze under control
Firefighters bring a fire near the Jerusalem-Tel Aviv highway under control.
The Hebrew-language media reports that the fire, which spread from the nearby town of Nataf, burned over 5,000 dunam (1,250 acres) of woodland and damaged numerous homes.
Haifa schools in fire-hit areas to stay shut tomorrow
Schools and kindergartens in areas of Haifa affected by the blaze burning across swathes of the city will not open tomorrow, the municipality says.
More fires break out near northern communities
Firefighters are battling at least three new blazes in the north.
One of the fires broke out in the Haifa suburb of Kiryat Ata and is threatening homes there, Walla reports. Another blaze began near Kibbutz Sasa, close to the Lebanese border, and another close to the Druze town of Sajur, in the Galilee.
8 arrested on suspicion of arson attacks in north
Eight people are under arrest for allegedly setting fires in the north in recent days, the Hebrew-language media reports.
Wildfire breaks out near Karmiel
Another brush fire breaks out near the northern city of Karmiel.
Four teams of firefighters are currently working to bring the blaze under control, Walla reports.
Fresh fires break out in north
Fires have broken out near the Arab village of Nahaf and in the Menashe Forests, in northern Israel, police say.
As a “cautionary measure,” police officers evacuate several houses in Nahaf, near the blaze.
The 6593 highway, which runs adjacent to the Menashe Forests, has been closed to traffic in both directions, police say.
There are no reports of injuries.
— Judah Ari Gross