Starting Tuesday, wildfires have broken out, or been purposely set, in
central and northern Israel forcing some 75,000 of 250,000 residents of Haifa to flee their homes. DailyMail
Fires were also raging in the outskirts of Jerusalem and near the Jewish settlement of Talmon in the occupied West Bank. The fires, some of the worst in Israel, are so ferocious because of an unusually dry November with no rain, relative humidity below 10 percent, and very strong winds.
On Thanksgiving Day, however, Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan said that though the fires had been brought under control, it was possible that weather conditions could reignite them again. NYT The same holds true for any further arson.
To fight the fires Israel took the unusual step of accepting foreign assistance offered from Greece, Cyprus, Croatia, Turkey, Russia, France and Ukraine. Even the Palestinian Authority sent firetrucks. Netanyahu has also asked the United States for a “Super Tanker” fire fighting aircraft which is expected to arrive today. Reuters
Suspicion abounds as to the origin of the fires. In Haifa six different fires started at the same time, and people were seen running away from fire scenes. Four were being questioned about the fires near Jerusalem. Public Security Minister Erdan said Thursday morning that he suspected that up to half of the fires had been deliberately set by arsonists, and Prime Minister Netanyahu has stated that, “fires caused by arson are acts of terrorism and will be dealt with accordingly.” JerusalemPost
The foregoing suspicions are buttressed by the reaction to the fires on Arab social media, with “Tel_Aviv_IsBurning” being the most common Arabic hashtag trending Thursday morning on Arab social media platforms. JerusalemPost
One of the most prolific tweets came from an Abu Dabi police officer reading, “Israel has prevented the muezzin calls to prayer, and then it was engulfed in fire.”
Those sentiments, echoed in arab social media networks in Egypt, Jordan and the Gulf emirates, refer to pending Israeli legislation banning loudspeakers outside places of worship, such as those used outside mosques five times a day to call muslims to prayer.
As to be expected, top muslim clerics joined in celebrating Israeli’s misfortunes.
Kuwait’s Grand Mosque’s imam, Sheikh Mishary Alfasy Rashid, tweeted the following to his 11 million Twitter followers:
“Good luck to the fires. #Israel_IsBurning,” he wrote in an Arabic Twitter post accompanied by a smiling face icon and various photographs of the daily fires across the country.
كل التوفيق للحرائق #إسرائيل_تحترق ☺️ pic.twitter.com/WD6FWgrWcw
— مشاري راشد العفاسي (@Alafasy) November 23, 2016
In another tweet, he wrote that the blazes were “due to the prevention of the calls of the muezzin in occupied Palestine.”
And yet another prominent Kuwati, Sheikh Nabil Ali al-Awad, betraying his anti-semitism, tweeted out to his 6 million Twitter followers that:
“God burned their hearts and their homes and their money and their bodies and make their graves inflamed…because of what they did to the [Muslim] believers,” he wrote alongside the hashtag “#Israel_IsBurning.”
The Persian Gulf sheikh later returned to Twitter to apologized for using the word “Israel” in his previous post, attempting to explain that “there is no such entity. I used the word as part of a hashtag.”
As if bombs and rocket attacks are not enough for Israel to contend with, now they are dealing with what seems, at least in part, to be terrorism by fire. I am praying for Israel: that these fires are fully extinguished; that the people of Israel and their homes and possessions are protected from fire; and that any who have deliberately set any fires are caught and punished.