Saturday, November 26, 2016

Israel in Flames

By Douglas V. Gibbs
Author, Speaker, Instructor, Radio Host

Brushfires are burning through Israel, and it is believed that the Muslim terrorist element is behind the flames.

The army has called up reservists to help cope with a third day of fires, as a fifth of residents left the city
Authorities have speculated that the fires, in Israel's third city, could have been started deliberately.

[The] Raging bushfires forced the evacuation of tens of thousands of people from parts of Israel's third city Haifa on Thursday as firefighters struggled to control blazes across the country.

Flames more than 30 feet high were threatening several multi-storey tower blocks in Israel's third city of Haifa.

'It is suspicious that they started at the same time in six different areas in Haifa,' he said. 'We received reports and found it suspicious enough to believe that someone was behind the incidents.'

He said that people were seen running away from fire scenes, further increasing suspicions, and stated that four people have been questioned in connection with a blaze near Jerusalem.

Israeli volunteers help extinguish a fire in the northern port city. The fires have already burned for three days
'The fire was up over the skyscrapers. It came up to 20 stories high.'

Hame said she thought the fire was 'much more dangerous' than a blaze in 2010 in Haifa that killed 44 people -- the deadliest in Israeli history.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said any proof of arson would be treated as "terror".

Internal Security Minister Gilad Erdan said up to half of a spate of fires had been "arson terror", while another minister appeared to point a finger at the country's Arab minority -- drawing fierce rebukes from Arab Israeli leaders.

Some residents were trapped in their homes as the army called up reservists to support firefighters struggling to cope with a third day of blazes.

Haifa mayor Yona Yahav told journalists 60,000 of the city's roughly 250,000 residents had been evacuated, calling the scale "unprecedented".

Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said residents in eight Haifa neighbourhoods had been told to leave due to six separate fires.

Around 65 people have been hospitalised with mild injuries, according to the Magen David Adom medical service.

Fires also raged in two areas on the outskirts of Jerusalem as well as near the Jewish settlement of Talmon in the occupied West Bank, police said, with Netanyahu saying there were 15 fire sites in total.

A number of countries made immediate pledges of support, including planes.

Noah Wolfson, head of the Meteo-Tech meteorology website, said the dry autumn and strong winds meant conditions were perfect for fires to spread -- whether sparked by accident or on purpose.

Wildfires tore across central and northern Israel on Thursday, forcing tens of thousands of residents to flee the city of Haifa, as leaders blamed arsonists for some of the blazes and branded them terrorists.

Television pictures showed a wall of flames raging through central neighborhoods of Israel's third largest city. Firefighters dowsed a petrol station with water as the blaze edged closer.

The fires have been burning in multiple locations for the past three days but intensified on Thursday, fueled by unseasonably dry weather and strong easterly winds.

"Every fire that was caused by arson, or incitement to arson, is terrorism by all accounts. And we will treat it as such," Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told reporters gathered in Haifa. "Whoever tries to burn parts of Israel will be punished for it severely."

Internal Security Minister Gilad Erdan referred to "arson terrorism" and said there had been a small number of arrests, providing no other details.

On social media, some Arabs and Palestinians celebrated the fires and the hashtag #Israelisburning was trending on Twitter.

With fires burning in the forests west of Jerusalem, around Haifa, on central and northern hilltops and in parts of the Israeli-occupied West Bank, the government sought assistance from neighboring countries to tackle the conflagration.

Greece, Cyprus, Croatia, Turkey and Russia offered help, with several aircraft already joining efforts to quell the blaze, dropping fire-retardant material to try to douse the heaviest fires and stem their spread.

Netanyahu said he had asked for a "Super Tanker" fire fighting aircraft to be sent from the United States.

Education Minister Naftali Bennett, the leader of the Jewish Home party which supports settlements in the West Bank where Palestinians seek statehood, said on Twitter that arsonists were disloyal to Israel, hinting that those who set the fires could not be Jewish.

Haifa's mayor said he feared for the city and called on residents with water sprinklers to turn them on to help keep the flames at bay. Those leaving their homes were urged to go to sports stadiums and other safer locations.

Highway 443, which links Jerusalem and Tel Aviv as it cuts through a southern flank of the West Bank, was temporarily closed to morning rush-hour traffic as flames reached the city of Modi'in, about half way between the two conurbations.

Dry conditions and strong winds on Thursday whipped up wildfires near the port city of Haifa in northern Israel, forcing the evacuation of tens of thousands of people, damaging property and devouring forests.

Parts of the port city of Haifa in northern Israel were ablaze on Thursday as wildfires raged through the country for a third day, devouring forests, damaging homes and prompting the evacuation of tens of thousands of people.

Asked how long Haifa was likely to be battling the blazes, Mayor Yona Yahav told reporters, “This is a question that has to be referred to God.”

Israeli officials said the fires had been fanned by unusually strong winds and made worse by a dry atmosphere, but they also said they suspected that many of them had been caused by arson and negligence. Dozens of people have been slightly affected by smoke inhalation, but no serious injuries or fatalities have been reported.

Gilad Erdan, Israel’s public security minister, told Army Radio that the professional assessment was that almost half the fires were the result of arson.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attributed the fires to “natural and unnatural” causes and said that “any fire caused by arson or incitement to arson is terrorism in every sense of the word, and we will treat it as such.”

Several homes have been destroyed in recent days in the town of Zikhron Yaaqov, south of Haifa, and in Nataf, a village in the hills outside Jerusalem. Flames have also threatened Talmon, a Jewish settlement in the occupied West Bank. And on Thursday night the police reported a fire near Shuafat, a Palestinian neighborhood of East Jerusalem.

The first major fire began in the forest surrounding Neve Shalom, known in Arabic as Wahat al-Salam, or Oasis of Peace, a small cooperative community about halfway between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem where Israeli Jews and Arabs live together.

Despite the suspicion of arson in many cases, the Israeli authorities were cautious in assigning blame. But some Israeli news organizations were labeling the wave of fires an “arson intifada,” alluding to a Palestinian uprising.

Some Palestinians were celebrating the fires on social media, posting congratulatory messages on Facebook. “Enjoy the burning of your homes, you Zionists,” one wrote. Others described the fires as divine retribution for legislation being advanced in Israel, with Mr. Netanyahu’s backing, to ban or restrict the use of loudspeakers by mosques and other houses of worship across Israel.

Inflammatory social media posts celebrating widespread fires in Israel go viral in the Arab world as blazes rage in the Jewish state.

Arab social media networks on Thursday were rife with inflammatory celebratory reactions in light of the myriad of brush fires that have been blazing across central and northern Israel since Tuesday.

Dry conditions and high winds have spread the flames across the central and northern regions of Israel as well as parts of the West Bank.

"Tel_Aviv_IsBurning" was the most common Arabic hashtag trending on Arab social media platforms on Thursday morning.

One of the most proliferous tweets was published by a police officer in Abu Dabi that read "Israel has prevented the muezzin calls to prayer, and then it was engulfed in fire."

In addition social media networks in Egypt, Jordan and the Gulf emirates were also saturated with posts that indicated that the fires were nature's retribution over an controversial Israel bill to ban outside loudspeakers from places of worship, such as the likes used in the five-time daily call to prayer by mosques.

The imam of Kuwait's Grand Mosque, Sheikh Mishary Alfasy Rashid, also chimed in issuing incendiary remarks to his following of 11 million on Twitter.

"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.

In another tweet, he wrote that the blazes were "due to the prevention of the calls of the muezzin in occupied Palestine."

Another Kuwaiti sheikh, Nabil Ali al-Awad, also took to Twitter in a fiery rant to his 6 million followers on the social media platform.

"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."

-- Political Pistachio Conservative News and Commentary

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