Dry winds continue to blow across Israel, hindering the fight against over 220 fires that rage from Jerusalem to Haifa. Israel has declared a state of emergency with over 75,000 people being evacuated from their homes in Haifa alone, and thousands of others across the country. Dozens of neighborhoods have been destroyed, with schools, orphanages, businesses, homes and synagogues left in shambles. Throughout the country, absorption centers are being established to provide emergency care for those who have been left homeless, many by what Prime Minister Netanyahu is calling a new form of terrorism.
As requests pour in for disaster assistance, Bridges for Peace is committed to helping in whatever way we can. The need is urgent and we desperately need your help. Even when the fires are out and the smoke has cleared, thousands of people will be without homes to return to. Please consider a generous gift to help us help Israel at a time when crisis is devastating the lives of thousands, many of them children and new immigrants. As Israelis look to Christian friends for help, we cannot let them down.
Friday, 25 November 2016 | Firefighters throughout Israel are battling around the clock as a series of fires are continuing to ravage large parts of the country for the fourth consecutive day in what authorities suspect to be a widespread terror arson attack.
Last night, the number of fires dealt with over the past three days climbed to over 220. Israel’s third-largest city, Haifa, is at the epicenter of the disaster, with massive blazes raging through areas of the port city. More than 75,000 residents have been evacuated from Haifa alone and a state of emergency has been declared. “We are in a state of war,” Haifa fire service spokesman, Uri Chibutro, told Israel’s Channel 2 news.
Thousands more across the country were also forced to flee their homes. However, after three days of battling the flames, Public Security Minister, Gilad Erdan, announced last night that the general situation was now “under control.”
According to the Jewish National Fund’s firefighting service, nearly 750 hectares (1,850 acres) of forests and rural areas have been devastated over the past three days. A number of houses, apartment buildings and cars have also been destroyed.
Although the damage is extensive, the fires have not resulted in any deaths or critical injuries. Magen David Adom reported that it has treated nearly 100 people for smoke inhalation and one person for moderate injuries. Hospitals in the affected areas also remain on high alert.
The blaze started on Tuesday in the Jerusalem hills outside Israel’s capital and in Zichron Yaakov, south of Haifa, where the flames damaged and destroyed a number of homes. The dry, windy weather exacerbated the situation, as strong winds stoked the fires.
According to Israeli authorities, the blazes spreading across the country were, however, not only due to natural causes but are believed to be the result of a wave of terror arson attacks.
According to The Israel Project, Roni Alsheich confirmed that a number of the fires were set deliberately. He added that some arrests have been made and that investigations were ongoing. “It is likely that there is a nationalist motive in some of the arson cases,” he said. For his part, Erdan told Israel’s Army Radio that half of the estimated 220 fires were caused by “repeated arson.”
Addressing reporters in Haifa last night, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed, “Every flame caused by arson or incitement to arson is terrorism, and we will treat it as such. Anyone who tries to set fire to parts of Israel will be punished to the full extent of the law.”
Israel’s squadron of 14 firefighting aircraft is at present unable to contain the series of blazes and Netanyahu has requested foreign assistance. A number of countries have responded to the call and an additional 10 planes reportedly arrived last night and early this morning from Russia, Greece, Italy, Cyprus, Croatia and Turkey.
The Russians have sent 19 crew members and two planes capable of carrying 12,000 liters of water, scooped from the sea in a matter of seconds. A third such plane is expected to arrive today.
The world’s largest firefighting plane and the only model able to operate at night, the Global Supertanker, will also arrive from the United States today.
Yet while support and assistance for Israel continued to stream in from the international community, the social media platform, Twitter, exploded with outpourings of anti-Semitic and anti-Israel hate and even jubilation over the fires.
According to The Israel Project, the hashtag #IsraelIsBurning as well as its Arabic counterpart trended on Twitter over the past three days. Users rejoiced in the disaster, saying, “I’ve never witnessed a happier day than this one” and “The most beautiful morning!”
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