As the Jews of Havat Gilad in Samaria celebrated the second day of Rosh HaShanah on Sunday afternoon, a group of Arabs from a nearby village infiltrated the town and set fire to the area. Contrary to media reports, a house was burnt down, and the holiday ended with an emergency evacuation, several wounded residents, and two families left homeless.
Police arrested four Arab suspects near the scene of the crime.
The attack took place as most residents prayed in the community synagogue. Residents spotted the smoke from the synagogue windows and ran out to see part of the town in flames.
They battled the blaze for several hours as it consumed buildings and fields. Several of the volunteer firefighters later required treatment for smoke inhalation, and some were hospitalized.
The volunteers, along with professionals who arrived in the course of the battle, managed to save most of the town's homes from destruction. Due to the danger posed by the fire, children were evacuated from Havat Gilad.
The fire destroyed two buildings. One, the home of a couple and their young child, was completely destroyed. The family did not have time to remove any property before the blaze demolished their home, and their clothing, furniture, and other belongings were lost.
The second building, which was home to a couple and three children, sustained serious damage.
In addition, the electric lines and the main sewage line connecting Havat Gilad to the Samaria infrastructure were destroyed. The total cost of the damage is estimated at half a million shekels.
Gershon Mesika, head of the Samaria Regional Council, visited the town on Sunday night, after the holiday ended. “The damage was shocking,” he said. “This is a terrorist attack.” Mesika called on the IDF and police to protect the Jews of Havat Gilad from hostile Arabs in the region.
Similar attacks have been reported in the past. Samaria residents said Sunday that members of the group “Rabbis for Human Rights” had been involved in a previous arson attempt.
The Shomron Liaison Office is launching an emergency campaign to raise funds to assist the families affected by Sunday's arson attack.