Israel Police Chief Roni Alsheich held a press briefing in Haifa Thursday afternoon, updating the media on the status of the ongoing investigation and revealing that arrests in the case of the fires blazing across Israel had been made.
With more than 50,000 residents of the northern coastal area having fled their homes as fires rage in Haifa and Zichron Yaakov, Alsheich called upon residents in nearby areas to remain at home and not exacerbate traffic jams caused by the evacuations. In particular, he requested that residents of neighborhoods that have not received evacuation orders to refrain from fleeing prematurely, as that could hinder the movement of people out of areas where there is an immediate danger to life.
“Everyone who lives in neighborhoods that need to be evacuated is already aware [of the orders],” the police chief added.
Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said that eight neighborhoods across Haifa had already been evacuated.
Six separate fires are currently burning around Haifa, choking city streets with smoke.
Regarding the preliminary investigation into the fires and the possibility of a large, coordinated arson effort, Alsheich said that all efforts were being made to uncover the cause of the blazes, adding that some arrests had already been made.
“We have a special integrated investigation team that is monitoring everything that is happening across the country. I don’t want to get into questions regarding where [we suspect] arson and where we do not.”
“If this is [confirmed] as arson, it could be nationalistically motivated. It’s certainly not just pyromania," he said, measuring his words carefully. "And there have been arrests.”