Police minister: Nearly half of fires were arson
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Police minister: Nearly half of fires were arson

Gilad Erdan tells Knesset that official statistic of over 1,700 fires is not accurate, that his arson ‘estimates are based upon facts’

People run as wildfires rages in Haifa, Israel, Thursday, Nov. 24, 2016. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)
People run as wildfires rages in Haifa, Israel, Thursday, Nov. 24, 2016. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)

Israel’s minister for public security said on Wednesday that forty to fifty percent of the fires that broke out across Israel last week were the result of arson.

Speaking at the Knesset, Gilad Erdan said that his claim regarding the percentage of fires started by arson was based upon “the estimates of professionals” and that the Fire Services back up his claim, according to a transcript of his speech distributed by the Knesset.

“These estimates are based upon facts. When you see two Molotov cocktails with flammable materials, and you see that the fire started from there, you understand that this is arson, and there were a number of cases like this,” Erdan said.

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.

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 called into question that number, 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.

Erdan said that his claim of 40-50% of fires being the result of arson was calculated from what the Fire Services described as 39 significant fires, and was based upon “findings from the ground.”

The Fire Services refused to comment on Erdan’s allegation.

On Tuesday the Israel Police said it was too early to determine how many of the hundreds of wildfires that spread across the country last week were the result of arson and possible terrorism.

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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