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Fire contained in Palestinian village, as Israel continues probe

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A fire broke out in a three-story building in the village of al-Ram in the occupied West Bank district of Jerusalem on Sunday morning, while Israeli authorities extended the detentions of four Palestinians with Israeli citizenship suspected of being involved in arsons in Israel.

Firefighters evacuated eight Palestinians residing in the building before extinguishing the fire in the factory.

The Palestinian Civil Defense said in a statement that the fire started in a part of the small factory where the raw material — such as plastic and rubber — used for shoemaking were being produced, but that firefighters controlled the flames before they reached machinery or other parts of the workspace.

The civil defense did not indicate if the fire was considered to be an accident or if there were suspicions of arson.

Director of Civil Defense in the Jerusalem district Muhammad al-Aqra said that citizens who alerted the Civil Defense about the fire played a major role in saving potential human casualties and minimizing material damage.

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Israeli police spokeswoman Luba al-Samri said in a statement on Sunday that Israeli courts had extended the detention of four Palestinian citizens of Israel who were accused of starting fires.

She stated that the a magistrate court in Tabariyya had extended the remand of a 22-year-old youth from Kafr Kanna to Nov. 29, while a magistrate court in Akka had extended the detentions of three suspects aged 22, 21, and 17 from Deir Hanna to Nov. 30 pending further investigation.

The recent developments came after nearly a week of fires spreading across Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory.

The mass fire ripping through Israel saw tens of thousands of residents forced to flee their homes, while wildfires also spread across the occupied West Bank, from the northern district of Nablus to Hebron in the southern West Bank.

Israeli security officials said that the fires had been largely contained by Israeli, Palestinian, and international firefighting crews as of Saturday, the Times of Israel reported.

Some Israeli officials have claimed that the fires were caused by politically motivated arson, with far-right Israeli Education Minister Naftali Bennett blaming Palestinian “fire terrorists,” saying that “only someone who this land does not belong to would be capable of setting fire to it,” implying both that Palestinians were responsible for the fires and that Palestinians do not have any attachment to the land in Israel, from where some 700,000 Palestinians were displaced during the establishment of Israel in 1948.

Meanwhile, Israeli Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan called on Saturday for the demolition of homes of any Palestinian found guilty of arson, and Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman said during a visit to the illegal Israeli settlement of Hallamish in the West Bank following a fire that the best answer to the destruction caused by the flames was to “expand settlements,” Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported.

However, Israeli security sources have stated that a combination of extreme winds and an unprecedented drought, which was reported earlier this year as being the worst in the Middle East in 900 years, were the main cause of the initial fires, with suspicions of arson coming into play in fires starting on Wednesday.

In many cases, notably in Haifa, Israeli security forces did not yet confirm suspicions of arson as the initial cause of the fires, nor were there serious indications that the arsons were politically motivated attacks against the state of Israel.

Meanwhile, at least 35 people were detained over suspicions suspicions of arson or inciting others to commit arson, Israeli media said, at least 10 of whom were Palestinians with Israeli citizenship and others Palestinians from the occupied Palestinian territory.

It remained unclear on Sunday how many of these dozens of people were arrested for actual arson versus incitement.

On Friday, Anas Abu Daabis, a 24-year-old Palestinian from Rahat city in the Negev of southern Israel, was detained by Israeli forces for alleged “incitement” over a Facebook post reportedly encouraging others to start fires.

However, Israeli media later reported that his detention came after Israeli authorities mistranslated his post, which sarcastically denounced Palestinians who rejoiced over the fires in Israel by linking it to the potential banning of the use of loudspeakers to broadcast the adhan — call to prayer — in Israel.

Despite the clarifications coming to light over the post’s actual meaning, Abu Daabis was still being detained as of Sunday, according to the Times of Israel.

Meanwhile, a Jewish-Israeli man who was arrested on Saturday after calling on social media for areas where large numbers of Palestinian citizens of Israel live to be set on fire was released a day later with “restrictive conditions,” al-Samri stated on Sunday.

The Israeli man wrote a number of posts on Facebook inciting against Palestinians, notably declaring: “What applies to Haifa and Jerusalem applies to Umm al-Fahm. Burn them all sons of whores.”

“Let’s simply torch back villages of Arabs,” he wrote in another post, using the Israeli term for Palestinians with Israeli citizenship. “This is a war. To all the leftists who believe in peace, be aware that in the Palestinian Authority they happily call for torching other places in our side.”

Critics have claimed that Israeli politicians were quick to blame Palestinians for the fires as a political maneuver to further convince the international community of Palestinian hostility toward the Israeli state.

Meanwhile, the Joint List — the Israeli parliament coalition representing Palestinian citizens of Israel — and the Fatah movement of the occupied West Bank condemned Palestinians who have celebrated the fires for revenge over the adhan controversy, while Palestinian civil defense crews have provided reinforcement in order to assist Israel in controlling the fires in Haifa and Jerusalem.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu thanked Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Saturday for providing assistance to extinguish the fires, also expressing appreciation for both Jewish and Palestinian citizens of Israel who have come out to assist the tens of thousands of people who have been affected by the fires.

[Source: Maan News Agency]
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