Fresh blazes break out in north, West Bank, Jerusalem
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Fresh blazes break out in north, West Bank, Jerusalem

Emergency services rush to douse flames as spate of fires continues to ravage country

Firefighters battle a blaze near Rishpon in central Israel, on Sunday, November 27, 2016 (Israel Police)
Firefighters battle a blaze near Rishpon in central Israel, on Sunday, November 27, 2016 (Israel Police)

Firefighters on Sunday continued to battle at least four fresh wildfires nationwide as the nearly week-long spate of blazes persisted.

A fire tore through a park in the northern town of Karmiel on Sunday afternoon. Firefighters were at the scene.

Another fire was reported Sunday in the area of the West Bank settlement of Halamish, where 18 homes were consumed by flames on Friday night.

A small brush fire broke out in the French Hill neighborhood of Jerusalem and another was extinguished next to the national police headquarters in the capital.

Earlier, police said that a fire raging in a field outside Moshav Rishpon, north of Tel Aviv, was attended to by firefighters. A police spokeswomen said that fire was “under control” and would soon be doused.

She said police and firefighters had yet to establish the cause of the fire.

Since Tuesday, firefighters have been battling wildfires throughout the country that on Thursday hit the city of Haifa, forcing some 60,000 residents to evacuate their homes. The residents have since been cleared to return home, though over 1,000 houses have been damaged.

Israeli firefighter airplanes try to extinguish a fire raging in the northern city of Haifa, where a major fire was raging across the city on November 24, 2016. (Yaakov Cohen/Flash90)
Israeli firefighter airplanes try to extinguish a fire raging in the northern city of Haifa, where a major fire was raging across the city on November 24, 2016. (Yaakov Cohen/Flash90)

Attending to the rash of fires across the country, firefighting planes from Israel and countries including Russia, Turkey, Greece, France, Spain and Canada have dumped tons of water and retardants.

Palestinian Authority fire crews also joined the efforts last week, sending 41 firefighters and eight trucks.

The Magen David Adom rescue service reported Saturday that among the 133 people treated by the organization for fire-related injuries, one was seriously hurt and three others were moderately injured. The overall tally is likely higher, officials said, as some people – one estimate suggested as many as 50 – may have gone to hospitals on their own for injuries such as smoke inhalation.

Haifa city officials said Saturday that the fires ravaged some 28,000 dunams (6,900 acres) of land in the city since Thursday. Between 400 and 530 homes were damaged by the fires there.

More favorable weather, including a rise in humidity and drop in wind, is expected by Tuesday, while forecasts look for rain by Wednesday, ending the unseasonable dry spell that started and exacerbated much of the wave of fires.

Officials over the weekend also maintained that some of the fires were deliberately set in acts characterized by police and politicians as terrorist in nature.

In all, at least 35 people have been arrested since Thursday on suspicion of setting fires or inciting others to do so. Most are Palestinians, but at least 10 are Israeli Arabs.

It was not immediately clear that the motive of all the arsonists was nationalistic. Some of the fires they are believed to have started were near Arab villages and towns.

Israeli security officials on Saturday night gave preliminary indications that weather conditions were the prime cause of the initial wave of fires. Arsonists became a factor from Wednesday and into the weekend.

AFP contributed to this report.

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