Haifa residents evacuated as fires spread across Israel


In what some are dubbing an “arson intifada”, residential Israeli neighborhoods continue to burn or are under threat as wildfires have spread across the nation for the third straight day on Thursday fueled by unseasonably dry weather and exacerbated by strong winds.

Fire department spokesman Yoram Levi said the cause of some of the fires is arson. Minister of Public Security Gilad Erdan and Israel Police Chief Roni Alsheikh are treating the situation as a national emergency for central and northern Israel.

“Every fire caused by arson or by incitement to arson is terrorism in all respects,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said. “Anyone attempting to burn parts of the State of Israel will be punished.”

Erdan said the nation needs to prepare for “a new type of terror,” as 60,000 residents were evacuated from their homes in Haifa.

As Haifa was under a pall of smoke, parents rushed to pick up children evacuated from their schools, families were forced to flee their homes and emergency services assisted dozens of people suffering from smoke inhalation. Nursing homes and one university were also evacuated. Police closed main roads and highways were closed and train service disrupted.

Flames engulfed entire buildings in the North causing millions of shekels of damage not to mention destruction of vegetation and other wildlife.

Hashtag #Israelisburning is trending on social media sites from Arabic language accounts around the world. Many of the tweets say the fires are an act of divine retribution against Israel because Israel wants to pass a law to restrict noise pollution from mosques between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m. The most inciting tweets are from prominent Islamic preachers.

Example of tweets with hashtag #israelisburning

Believers in the affected areas report evacuations, dramatic escapes and miracles and are grateful for continued prayers.

Shmuel Aweida, pastor of Beit Eliyahu congregation in Haifa, told KNI that many children from kindergartens and school had been evacuated. Some of the children in their congregation saw their school burning and a supermarket right next to it too. The pastor said that the congregation building was in a “safe” neighborhood that would most likely not be affected by the fire. The congregation opened the building up for those who needed a place to stay.

A young couple from Beit Eliyahu thanked God for their last-minute decision to not rent an apartment in a high-rise building that was completely engulfed by flames and destroyed today.

Heidi Litle, also from Beit Eliyahu congregation spoke of the planes flying overhead throughout the day to extinguish the fires – underscoring the seriousness of the situation. Ruth, another believer, said that the plane was so close she could see the pilot.

Israeli firefighter airplanes try to extinguish a fire raging in the Northern Israeli city of Haifa, on November 24, 2016. Photo by Meir Vaknin/Flash90 *** Local Caption *** ????? ???? ???? ?? ?????
Israeli firefighter airplanes try to extinguish a fire raging in Haifa, on November 24, 2016. (Photo by Meir Vaknin/Flash90)

KNI reader Antony Short said one of the main highways between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv was partially closed as the fire crept precariously close to a gas station.

An American 747 Supertanker, the largest aerial firefighting aircraft in the world, would be landing in Israel on Thursday or Friday to help douse the flames.

One suspected arsonist was caught and arrested near Ben Shemen forest near Jerusalem, one of Israel’s popular parks.

We praise God for vigilance that prevented a worse disaster and we are grateful for prayers that are keeping everyone safe. Please join us in declaring God’s protection for the nation’s residents.

Psalm 91

Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High
will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress,
my God, in whom I trust.”
Surely he will save you
from the fowler’s snare
and from the deadly pestilence.
He will cover you with his feathers,
and under his wings you will find refuge;
his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.
You will not fear the terror of night,
nor the arrow that flies by day,
nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness,
nor the plague that destroys at midday.
A thousand may fall at your side,
ten thousand at your right hand,
but it will not come near you.
You will only observe with your eyes
and see the punishment of the wicked.
If you say, “The Lord is my refuge,”
and you make the Most High your dwelling,
10 no harm will overtake you,
no disaster will come near your tent.
11 For he will command his angels concerning you
to guard you in all your ways;
12 they will lift you up in their hands,
so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.
13 You will tread on the lion and the cobra;
you will trample the great lion and the serpent.
14 “Because he loves me,” says the Lord, “I will rescue him;
I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name.
15 He will call on me, and I will answer him;
I will be with him in trouble,
I will deliver him and honor him.
16 With long life I will satisfy him
and show him my salvation.”