Three Palestinians arrested for suspected arson attacks

Suspects are accused of setting fires in West Bank for ‘nationalistic’ motives during a rash of wildfires last month

Three Palestinians were arrested in November by Israeli security forces on suspicion of deliberately setting fires during a wave of blazes that broke out across Israel and the West Bank, the Shin Bet security agency said on Sunday.

The arrests — which had previously been under gag order — were carried out in a joint operation by the IDF, the Israel Police and the Shin Bet on November 26, the domestic security agency said.

The three suspects, Joad Mohammad Faiz Dahr, 19, Hamdan Saqr Hamdan Lami, 19, and Yazid Ahmad Hamdan Lami, 24, are all from the Palestinian village of Iskaka in the northern West Bank.

According to a Shin Bet spokesperson, the three have been accused of carrying out arson attacks next to their village and near an access road to the settlement of Ariel.

Although it was not specified on which date they allegedly set the fires, three suspects were spotted by security cameras on November 25 attempting to ignite a blaze outside of Ariel.

The Shin Bet said that the suspects are accused of committing arson with nationalistic motives.

The cases have been transferred from the Shin Bet to the IDF’s Military Advocate General, where the three are expected to stand trial.

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The arrests of the men came at the tail end of a series of fires that ravaged Israel between November 18 and November 26, many of which are believed to have been deliberately set.

According to Fire Services spokesman Yoram Levy, there were over 2,000 brush fires during this period, with 39 of them considered to be major. Fifty of the fires are currently being investigated as potential arson attacks.

In all, at least 35 people have been arrested in connection with the fires but almost all of them have since been released.

Authorities estimate that some 130,000 dunams (32,124 acres) were destroyed in the blazes, approximately 30 percent more than the 2010 Carmel fire in which 44 people were killed.

Haifa officials said fires destroyed some 28,000 dunams (6,900 acres) of land in the city alone. At least 60,000 of the city’s residents were evacuated while firefighters battled to contain a blaze that had entered a dozen of the city’s neighborhoods from the nearby Carmel Forest.

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