The Fire Department said on Monday that a fire at the offices of left-wing NGO B'Tselem was likely caused by a short circuit and not arson, which was initially suspected. The fire in Jerusalem on Sunday night raised concerns of a deliberate, politically-motivated attack on the group's headquarters.
Jerusalem's Fire Department said the fire started on the first floor, where the B'Tselem offices are located, and made its way up. Law enforcement began investigating the source of the fire on Monday morning. Because the fire apparently started inside the building, investigators initially considered the possibility of break-in.
"We are still waiting for the findings of the fire investigator," B'Tselem Spokesperson Sarit Michaeli said in a statement. "However, if it is discovered that this was an arson attack, it must be seen in the context of the wave of government incitement and smear campaigns against Israel's human rights groups, and B'Tselem in particular."
The NGO's offices remained closed on Monday morning until the arrival of investigators as per police instructions and a guard was posted at the entrance. Security guards were stationed in the building on and off in recent months as a result of threats against B'Tselem.
Firefighting teams called to the scene on Sunday night rescued one person, a cantor from a syngoague in the building, who was trapped on the fourth floor because of the heavy smoke. He was taken to the Hadassah Medical Center in Jerusalem's Ein Karem in very light condition, suffering from smoke inhalation.
The building at the Makor Chaim neighborhood also houses offices of the Israel Antiquities Authority, the State Archives and the Israel Center for the Treatment of Psychotrauma.
"We are still waiting for the findings of the fire investigator," a B'Tslemen spokesperson said. "However, if it is discovered that this was an arson attack, it must be seen in the context of the wave of government incitement and smear campaigns against Israel's human rights groups, and B'Tselem in particular."
The organization further said that, "None of our staff were in the building (when the fire broke out), but people working on other floors had to be evacuated by the fire brigade. We do not know of any injuries.
"The building has been sealed by police but the fire brigade reported the damage to our office is extensive.
"Naturally, the damage to our offices will not stop our work of documenting and exposing the harm to human rights under the occupation."