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Suspected Arson Terror Shuts Down Haifa Trains

Massive fire blazes just south of Haifa, closes trains and covers coastal highway in heavy smoke; two other fires break out in north.
By Ari Yashar
First Publish: 7/4/2014, 1:32 PM / Last Update: 7/4/2014, 2:18 PM

Fighting suspected arson fire (illustration)
Fighting suspected arson fire (illustration)
Flash 90

As Israel is engulfed by rocket fire from Gaza and massive violent mob riots in Jerusalem and Shechem (Nablus), another terror front continues to rage on as the daily fires, suspected as being arson attacks, made landfall near Haifa on Friday.

A massive fire burst out in a thorn field adjacent to the train tracks between Atlit and Hof Habonim, in the Hof Hacarmel Regional Council area directly south of Haifa, Israel's third largest city, reports Yedioth Aharonoth.

Sprawling clouds of thick smoke spread over the area, covering parts of the highway that runs along the coast.

Seven firefighting crews from the coastal city of Hadera, aided by two firefighting airplanes are struggling to bring the large blaze under control and prevent it from spreading.

Due to the fire right beside the tracks, train traffic in the area was stopped, and police reportedly are considering closing the coastal highway as well due to the heavy smoke.

The fire makes the first massive blaze in the area in recent days, although reportedly there have been other smaller fires in the region that are being investigated by the firefighting units and police.

In a separate incident that may or may not have implications of arson, another fire broke out on Friday in a private home in Givat Avni, a town just south of Tiberias in the north, reports Walla!.

Three firefighting crews arrived on scene and were able to control the blaze, after first rescuing the trapped residents from the home.

Just a few hours later, a third fire broke out adjacent to the town of Gan Ner, located just north of the 1949 Armistice line, south of Afula. Five firefighting crews and two planes are struggling to prevent the fire from approaching the town.

As the battle against the flames continued, 15 homes were evacuated due to the nearing fire.

Daily large-scale fires

The Friday fires come on the heels of almost daily large-scale fires, which have often been occurring in multiple points simultaneously, in what is suspected to be a wave of arson terror.

Just a day earlier on Thursday, two massive fires broke out in two Jerusalem neighborhoods - Kiryat Hayovel and Har Hotzvim - and shortly afterwards in a neighborhood of the northern city of Afula, causing four homes to be evacuated.

The day before that, on Wednesday, multiple large fires broke out in Jerusalem, one point being at a plastics factory in the moshav of Even Sapir, burning down three homes in Ein Kerem and evacuating the nearby communities of Ora and Aminadav.

An additional brushfire broke out in the Sansan forest preserve near Tzur Hadassa, close to Beitar Illit, and another near Lifta, a nature preserve and historical site just ten minutes from Jerusalem's Central Bus Station. 

The fires took no rest on Saturday morning, as a suspected Arab arson attack was put out at the last moment before it reached the Jewish community of Einav in north-west Samaria.

That blaze followed two more fires last Thursday, one in Jerusalem's Har Hotzvim and another right by the city of Karmiel in the Western Galilee. That same day a court extended the arrest of a 20-year-old Arab resident of Abu Ghosh to the east of Jerusalem, who confessed to setting a forest in the area on fire.

And the day before that, last Wednesday, massive forest fire broke out in the Jerusalem Forest to the south-west of the city; residents of three streets were evacuated from their homes, as well as several public institutions, including Hadassah Ein Kerem and the Yad V'Shem Holocaust Memorial Museum. 

Former MK Michael Ben-Ari last Wednesday remarked on the fires set in deliberate arson attacks, attributing them to Arab terrorists. "Who is burning our country every year? Why isn't it spoken about? Who's hiding the nationalistic crime?" asked Ben-Ari.

"Graffiti has been declared as terrorism, what about burning forests next to residential buildings? Is the Shabak (Israel Security Agency) investigating who is behind the fire terrorism, or are they busy with a girl who had chalk in her schoolbag?" asked Ben-Ari rhetorically, referencing the high profile responses to "price tag" vandalism.