Wildfires reach occupied West Bank as settlers flee homes

Wildfires reach occupied West Bank as settlers flee homes
Israeli settlers have been forced to flee their homes in the West Bank, as wildfires in Israel reach the occupied territories.
2 min read
26 November, 2016

Israel - Wildfires continue

Wildfires near Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank have forced hundreds of settlers to flee their homes.

Israel has witnessed mass evacuations and more than a dozen arrests, police said Saturday, as the wild fires have threatened towns and cities such as Haifa.

Israeli and Palestinian firefighters, helped by foreign aircraft, have been battling dozens of bush blazes fed by drought and high winds that have seen tens of thousands of people evacuated.

Fire storm

Around 1,000 settlers had to leave the Halamish settlement near Ramallah in the occupied West Bank as 45 homes were damaged or destroyed by fire, a police spokeswoman said.

Blazes were also reported near the West Bank settlements of Dolev, Alfei Menashe and Karnei Shomron although there were no evacuations there.

Firefighting planes from Israel and countries including Russia, Turkey, Greece, France, Spain and Canada continued to dump tonnes of water and retardants on fires at locations including the village of Nataf close to Jerusalem.

A newly arrived US supertanker, considered the largest firefighting aircraft in the world, was due to join the emergency operation on Saturday.

Police said they had arrested 14 people on suspicion of negligence or deliberately starting fires, without providing details on their identities.

In the country's third city Haifa, where tens of thousands had been evacuated Thursday from the path of towering flames which threatened entire neighbourhoods, residents have started to return to assess the damage.


The Israeli authorities suspect that some of the fires may have been of criminal origin and linked to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said Friday there was "no doubt" some of the fires had been deliberate.

"There is a price to pay for the crimes committed, there is a price to pay for arson terrorism," he said.

Palestinian-Israeli leaders have argued that their community, which makes up about 17.5 percent of the country's population, is as much affected by the fires as Jews.

The Palestinians joined the efforts overnight to extinguish the blazes, sending 41 firefighters and eight trucks to Haifa where around 200 families have been left homeless, the municipality said.