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Thousands Flee Fires In Haifa, Israel


Wildfires near Haifa, Israel, the country's third-largest city, have caused approximately 60,000 people to evacuate their homes.

There have been no reported deaths, but dozens have been treated for smoke inhalation, according to Middle East Eye.

Meteorologists say Israel's dry and windy weather is at least partially responsible for the fires, but the Israeli government is blaming “terrorists” and have already arrested at least 12 people for alleged arson, NBC News reports.

"Every fire that was caused by arson, or incitement to arson, is terrorism by all accounts -- and we will treat it as such," Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said.

“It is suspicious that they started at the same time in six different areas in Haifa,” said Haifa police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld, according to the Daily Mail. “We received reports and found it suspicious enough to believe that someone was behind the incidents.”

"Meteorology is not responsible, but it is conducive to the spread of these fires," said Noah Wolfson, chief executive of weather forecasting company Meteo-Tech, according to the International Business Times. "The atmosphere will remain very dry, at least until Monday or Tuesday."

But Internal Security Minister Gilad Erdan told Army Radio that “at least 50 percent of the fires are apparently arson,” indicating that weather caused the other 50 percent, according to Middle East Eye.

Although there is reportedly no clear evidence proving the fires were caused by arsonists, the event was labeled the “arson intifada” and provided another opportunity for Israelis to criticize Palestinians and vice versa.

“Only those who do not belong to this country are able to set it alight,” tweeted right-wing Israeli politician Naftali Bennett on Nov. 23, according to a translation of his tweet by Middle East Eye.

“Yesterday they banned the Islamic call to prayer in Palestinian areas -- now they are getting divine retribution,” said one observer, according to a translation of a tweet.

Sources: International Business Times, Daily Mail, NBC News, Middle East Eye / Photo Credit: AM/Twitter

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