ISRAEL AT WAR - DAY 142

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Police: 29 out of 39 major fires investigated as arson

Dozens of locations were found in which arson was attempted but did not develop into a full scale blaze

A picture taken on November 24, 2016 shows a fire raging in the northern Israeli port city of Haifa. (AFP PHOTO / Jack GUEZ)
A picture taken on November 24, 2016 shows a fire raging in the northern Israeli port city of Haifa. (AFP PHOTO / Jack GUEZ)

The Israel Police said on Thursday that of 39 of the most serious fires that broke out last week as part of a wave of fires that ravaged the country, 29 are being treated as arson or suspected arson.

The police also said that dozens of locations were found in which arson was attempted but did not develop into a full scale blaze, Israel Radio reported.

According to Yoram Levy, spokesman of the Fire Services, firefighters battled 1,773 brush fires around the country and the West Bank from November 18 to November 26.

However, Minister of Public Security Gilad Erdan called the number into question on Wednesday, saying that in many cases “20 people called in about the same event, and this was counted,” and that in other cases fires from unrelated car crashes were also included.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Minister of Public Security Gilad Erdan, police chief Roni Alsheich, Minister of Construction Yoav Galant and Minister of Interior Arye Deri during a briefing in Haifa, where a major fire was raging, November 24, 2016. (Amos Ben Gershom/GPO)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Minister of Public Security Gilad Erdan, police chief Roni Alsheich, Minister of Construction Yoav Galant and Minister of Interior Arye Deri during a briefing in Haifa, where a major fire was raging, November 24, 2016. (Amos Ben Gershom/GPO)

Erdan said that instead what needs to be focused on are the 39 significant fires referenced by the police on Thursday. According the minister, 40-50 percent were likely the result of arson.

But based on the police’s statement, nearly three-quarters of the largest fires are being treated as arson or suspected arson, significantly higher than Erdan’s claim from the previous day.

As of Tuesday, police had arrested at least 35 people on suspicion of arson or incitement to arson. The police did not indicate how many were suspected of setting fires and how many of inciting others to do so.

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