Haifa, Nov 24: Even as Israeli authorities started on war footing evacuation of tens of thousands from Haifa on Thursday to save them from the fires, the Arab social media was celebrating ‘burning of Israel’.
The bush fires caused by dry conditions and high winds have spread the fires across the central and northern regions of Israel and parts of the West Bank. The fires started on Tuesday and spread across Israel on Thursday engulfing new areas in their flames.
Hundreds of residents were evacuated to safer places from Haifa in light of the fires. According to police estimates, there were 27 reports of minor injuries due to smoke inhalation.
The University of Haifa was also evacuated on as a precautionary move as fires raged in the northern city. Train movement was also halted between northern towns as the fires neared the railway tracks in Caesarea region.
On Thursday morning, Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan told Army Radio that 50% of these fires were caused by repeated arson.
Fires also broke out in an open field bordering Haifa's main fire station. Flames from burning brush spread to parked cars and nearby warehouses, and have crossed the road. Highway 22 and the Paz Bridge have both been closed to traffic, and the police reported two injuries in the area. All forces were working to control the flames.
Additionally, the Israel Electric Company declared a state of alert. Several power lines and company substations were damaged due to the fires, resulting in temporary power cuts and safety issues. Another fire has erupted nearby the Orot Rabin power station in Hadera.
Four planes and 49 staff members have arrived from Cyprus and Greece to aid in fighting the fire. Minister Erdan was due to meet with the pilots who came from Greece overnight.
Rosenfeld said 30 fire crews, aided by at least six planes and a police helicopter, battled that blaze for nearly six hours, finally containing it on Wednesday evening.
Asked if there appeared to be a connection between the blazes, Rosenfeld said multiple investigations have been opened to determine if they were triggered by weather conditions or foul play.
Arab world celebrates fire: However, the Arab social media ‘celebrated’ this burning of Israel. According to Jerusalem Post, the Arab social media networks on Thursday were rife with inflammatory reactions of celebration in light of the myriad of brush fires that have been blazing across central and northern Israel since Tuesday.
“Tel_Aviv_IsBurning” was the most common Arabic hashtag trending on Arab social media platforms on Thursday morning. One of the most proliferous tweets was published by a police officer in Abu Dhabi that read “Israel has prevented the muezzin calls to prayer, and then it was engulfed in fire.”
In addition social media networks in Egypt, Jordan and the Gulf emirates were also saturated with posts that indicated that the fires were nature's retribution over a controversial Israel bill to ban outside loudspeakers from places of worship, such as the likes used in the five-time daily call to prayer by mosques.
The imam of Kuwait's Grand Mosque, Sheikh Mishary Alfasy Rashid, also chimed in issuing incendiary remarks to his following of 11 million on Twitter.
"Good luck to the fires. #Israel_IsBurning," he wrote in an Arabic Twitter post accompanied by a smiling face icon and various photographs of the daily fires across the country.
Another Kuwaiti sheikh, Nabil Ali al-Awad, also took to Twitter in a fiery rant to his 6 million followers on the social media platform.
“God burned their hearts and their homes and their money and their bodies and make their graves inflamed...because of what they did to the [Muslim] believers,” he wrote alongside the hashtag “#Israel_IsBurning.”