Coastal District Police Commander Hagai Dotan has ordered the establishment of a special team to investigate the circumstances behind the recent fires that have hit Israel in the past week.
"It is suspected we are experiencing a wave of nationalistically motivated arson fires," he said. "There is no intelligence to support the claim but from a national perspective a sequence of arson fires in Tivon, Jerusalem and Beit Shmesh cannot be coincidental."
Earlier, firefighters gained control over a large fire that broke out between Kibbutz Shaar Haamakim and Kiryat Tivon.
Haifa Fire Services chief Arie Regev estimated the fire broke out as a result of arson, noting that a total of six fires were recorded in the area in the past week. "Six fires in the same place cannot be caused by negligence," he said. Police are saying that Thursday's blazes are part of a wave of arson attacks.
Arson or negligence? (Photo: Ahiya Raved)
Fire and Rescue Services commissioner Shahar Ayalon said there is no evidence to suggest that the recent fires were caused by arson. Nevertheless, he stated that there is suspicion of arson that warrants an investigation.
The fire reached some trees which caused several houses to catch fire. Residents and a nearby retirement home had beene evacuated. Twenty-seven crews worked to contain the flames together with dozens of Jewish National Fund and Nature and Parks Authority teams. Two aircraft assisted the extinguishing efforts.
Houses catch fire in Kiryat Tivon (Photo: Ahiya Raved)
Large police and Magen David Adom forces were also at the scene. One police officer suffered smoke inhalation but refused to be taken to hospital. Meanwhile, two larges fires also broke out near Beit Shemesh and in the Ibtin area.
Route 75 closed to traffic (Photo: Avishag Shaar-Yeshuv)
"This is one of the most complex fires we've worked on since the Carmel Disaster," one of the firefighters said.
The fire broke a day after a blaze that destroyed 70 dunam near the Amakim Junction. A total of eight fire crews are working to contain the flames and heavy smoke is seen from a distance.
Fire extinguishing jet over Kiryat Tivon (Photo: Ziv Rosenzweig)
Earlier, a fire broke out in Moshav Even Sapir near Jerusalem. Firefighters managed to contain the flames. The fire originally broke out on Wednesday.
Car that caught fire (Photo: Hagai Aharon)
Fire Services officials said that the fire had come close to the Hadassah Ein Kerem Hospital causing heavy traffic in the area. Extinguishing jets working in the area were diverted to the Kiryat Tivon blaze.
Ahiya Raved and Noam (Dabul) Dvir contributed to this report
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