“I want to be completely clear. Every fire caused by arson or by incitement to arson is terrorism in all respects,” Netanyahu said. “Anyone attempting to burn parts of the State of Israel will be punished,” he added as he provided an update of the situation in Haifa, much of which has been ablaze all day.
The prime minister also confirmed that the American 747 Supertanker, the largest aerial firefighting aircraft in the world that was deployed during the Carmel Forest fires in 2010, would be landing in Israel overnight Thursday.
Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan instructed the police to monitor social media in an effort to identify those inciting arson.
“We need to prepare for a new type of terror,” he said on Thursday evening. “The terrorism of arsonist, which also comes from incitement on social media networks. We will be opening a special unit of investigation into the incidents.”
Furthermore, Erdan informed the journalists that a number of arrests had already been made. Earlier in the day, Police Commissioner Roni Alsheikh said some of the cases of arson were likely nationalistically motivated.
“The Police Commissioner has instructed the Investigations and Intelligence Division to create a special investigation unit for every single fire to be investigated and so that all efforts will be taken to bring those responsible to account if it was arson and if someone initiated it,” Erdan said.
Interior Minister Aryeh Deri said at the end of the press conference that he would consider using his authority to cancel the status in Israel of anyone found to have been involved in arson attacks.
Netanyahu also offered his praise for the firefighters working around the clock to extinguish the fires. “I salute the firefighters and the pilots, both in Israel and from abroad,” he said. Currently 12 firefighting aircraft have been sent to Israel from Russia, Turkey, Cyprus, Greece, the UK, Italy and Croatia.
A Palestinian official also told Ynet that the Palestinian Authority had offered its assistance to Israel. Later, eight Palestinian firefighter vehicles escorted by the Commander of the Jenin Civil Administration made their way to Haifa to help extinguish the fires raging in the city. In 2010 the PA did provide succor in the Mount Carmel Forest fires.