TEL AVIV – Fires in nine localities across Israel have been deemed acts of arson and possibly terrorism, rendering victims eligible to receive compensation from state emergency funds for victims of terror.
The Israel Tax Authority said on Tuesday that fires in nine cities and settlements occurring at specific times were started by arsonists. These include Haifa, where roughly 500 homes were burnt down, and several West Bank settlements.
“From information received by the Tax Authority, the Israel Police and the Fire and Rescue Services commission, it has been determined that the fires in these locations were caused by intentional arson with reasonable suspicion of terrorist activities,” a statement from the tax authority noted.
Losses caused by wildfires and other natural disasters would usually only be covered by private insurance. In these nine cases, financial losses would be considered “war damages.”
Several dozen of the 1,773 fires firefighters battled last week are suspected to have been started by arsonists, police said. Six teenagers from the Arab-Israeli village of Jadeidi-Makr who were arrested last week on suspicion of setting a nearby forest on fire were denied bail on Monday.
On Tuesday, police announced that a 28-year-old Arab-Israeli man from the northern city of Umm al-Fahm is to be indicted for arson.
Knesset members have been calling for the government to compensate all victims of the fire in full, regardless of whether or not the losses were the result of arson. Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon (Kulanu) announced that NIS 2,500 ($650) will be awarded to every person who is unable to return home due to damages.
Some 75,000 people were forced to flee their homes since the wildfires started last Tuesday, destroying 32,000 acres of land. Most have been cleared to return home but damages are estimated to reach hundreds of millions shekels.