Three Arabs Indicted for Setting Fires in North

YERUSHALAYIM -
A wildfire rages in Haifa, on Thursday. (Reuters/Baz Ratner)
A wildfire rages in Haifa, during last month’s wildfire. (Reuters/Baz Ratner)

Three residents of the northern Israeli Arab village of Dir Hana were indicted Wednesday for starting two fires near their community – one outside Dir Hana and another in the neighboring Arab village of Arrabe – and of planning to start a third one. However, the indictment of the two adults and one minor does not charge them with starting the fires out of Arab nationalistic motives.

According to the indictment, the three were “inspired” by the many wildfires that struck Israel two weeks ago. “The three joined together in order to take action and set fires,” the indictment handed down in a Haifa court read. “They intentionally set fires in a premeditated manner in order to maximize damage during a difficult week.”

According to the indictment, the three gathered accelerant and matches and set a first fire in a forest next to their village. They watched as the fire spread, and when it approached a local school building they began filming the fire.

They then drove to Arrabe where they set a fire in another forest, and then backtracked to Dir Hana to see if the flames had reached the school. After that, they drove to a nearby grove of olive trees belonging to village residents and attempted to start a fire there, too – but were unable to, as they had run out of accelerant and matches.

After that, they went to check on the fire in Arrabe – and panicked when they saw a police car. Believing that police were onto them, they tried to escape. Eventually they were picked up by police and detained for driving without a license – and under questioning, one of the three let out that they had been involved in setting the fires. The three were then arrested and under questioning told police the whole story.

In a statement, the attorney for the three, Maram Hamoud, criticized statements by government officials, including Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, who had blamed many of the fires on nationalistic Arab motivations to burn Israel down. “So far not one of the indictments in any of these fires charges that fires were set for nationalistic purposes,” he said. “What does the prime minister and his ministers have to say now?”