A 16-year-old boy and his 14-year-old brother from the Druze village of Usfiya were arrested Saturday on suspicion of causing a wildfire in Israel's northern Carmel region, which has claimed the lives of 41 people.
Their mother told Ynet that her sons were in school when the fire broke out at around 11 am Thursday. She criticized the police for arresting the two.
"They have nothing to do with the fire and I'm very angry at the police for arresting my sons. Their behavior was violent," she claimed.
The mother added that her eldest son would be celebrating his 16th birthday on Sunday. "I want my children at home today. I don't want to suffer," she said.
The two brothers were taken in for questioning by the Haifa police and are expected to spend the night at the station.
Another relative told Ynet, "The police have excuses. They have nothing to do and are trying to evade responsibility for the fire. I am certain that the detainees will be released soon, as there is no proof that they caused the fire. We will work to prove that they're innocent."
Deputy Inspector General Ronny Atiya, commander of the Costal District Police, said during a press conference Saturday afternoon that two brothers from Usfiya had been arrested on suspicion of negligence which caused the wildfire. He did not elaborate.
The Carmel fire continued to rage on Saturday evening in the communities of Ein Hod, Nir Etzion, Dalyat al-Carmel, and near Usfiya. Eight members of the security forces were evacuated to the Rambam Medical Center in Haifa after inhaling smoke.
According to the Jewish National Fund, the fire has burnt some 12,300 acres of land so far.
Boaz Rakia of the firefighting services said the fire was dying down in some areas, but warned that "the wind will grow stronger in the night and change direction. Despite all of our lines of defense, the wing could easily escape them."
He said the aerial aid was crucial. "The fires are taking place under difficult topographic conditions, in places our forces have no access to. Without an aerial offensive, we would have to wait for the fire to advance to areas we have access to. Such aid brings us closer to ending the fire."
Residents of Tirat Carmel, Haifa's Denya neighborhood, Kfar Galim, Kibbut Hahotrim and Moshav Megadim were authorized by the police to return to their homes on Saturday afternoon after being evacuated due to the fire.
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