Article first published as Did Terrorism And Arson Cause Northern Israel Blaze? on Technorati.
It is becoming clear that arson or even terrorism may have helped to fan, if not actually cause the fires which continue to engulf large areas of northern Israel.
Moreover, Israel's enemies like Hezbollah , who are "overjoyed" by the disaster, are taking the opportunity to celebrate it as a P.R. coup and to make the world perceive Israel as incompetent.
After an initial inspection, the authorities believed the conflagration in the Carmel Forest area included deliberate acts of arson as the fires broke out at several locations and may have included the regular but illegal burning-off of toxic substances in rubbish heaps at the Arab town of Ossafia.
However, Police Commissioner Dudi Cohen, who hopes the fires will be extinguished today (Saturday), now believes it started at one site. His investigation teams will also know later today whether the disaster began as a result of negligence or arson.
The fires leapt out of control in high winds, killing more than 50 people, including a fellow resident of Karmiel, Shimon Dayan (29). Many more were savagely burned and are now lying in Haifa hospitals in a critical condition.
The pretty Haifa suburb of Denia where my cousins live was among the danger areas but I was assured that although some nearby roads were closed and properties there evacuated they had not been personally affected.
My British-born cousin echoed concerns expressed about official incompetence. “We are thankful for the help that is coming into Israel from all over the world as it is quite clear we do not have the resources here to fight a fire of this scale”, he said.
Israel has enjoyed a swell of unprecedented - and surprised - international concern and active help even from countries with which it customarily has strained relations like Turkey, Egypt and Jordan. Yesterday, Premier, Benjamin Netanyahu announced a National Day of Mourning to mark the catastrophe, possibly the worst blaze in Israeli history.
Despite all efforts, the sort of howling, withering winds redolent of England’s Yorkshire Moors have hindered rescue efforts. It appears from the view I have at Karmiel – about 18 miles north-east of Haifa - that the flames and smoke are being pushed out to sea. The sky here is still cloudless blue but a pall of smoke lying over Haifa Harbour has obliterated what is usually a perfect view which allows us often to see ships in dock.
So those of us left with the leisure to contemplate, are asking if the blaze has indeed been caused by arson, terrorism or plain stupidity. Only time, patience and a formal enquiry will even begin to sift the truth from the ashes of despair.
What began as a delightful Chanucah week with local school kids enjoying a musical parade along our street on Thursday has turned into the ugliest holiday in modern Israeli history showing what can happen when a blaze generates more heat than light.