Arson Suspected in Yerushalayim Area Fires

View of a large fire near Neve Ilan, on Wednesday. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Authorities are concerned that fires which raged to the west of Yerushalayim Wednesday might have been deliberate acts of arson.

While wildfires are common in Israel during the summer months, and human error or negligence could have caused the fires, foul play is being examined as a line of inquiry.

“We did not see any lightning in the skies over the country today, and we will clarify if this was arson or not later,” Fire and Rescue Commissioner Dedi Simchi told Channel 13.

The two initial points of the outbreak in the Yerushalayim area were apparently man-made, and likely arson, Simchi said.

The fires in the vicinity of Yerushalayim closed the main rail and road links between the city and Tel Aviv and cast a pall of smoke across the region – eliciting health warnings for those with breathing difficulties to remain indoors.

Homes were evacuated as 29 teams of firefighters and 11 aircraft combated the blaze, with it being contained in the early evening.

Several hours after the initial reports of fires to the west of Yerushalayim, additional incidents broke out in the northern Shomron, including large blazes near the communities of Ariel and Shavei Shomron.

Arson has previously been used as a form of resistance against Israel by Palestinians.

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