A suspected arson attack on the West Galilee village of Tal El east of Acre, near a cluster of Arab villages, Friday night, Dec. 2, strengthened the suspicion gaining ground among police and military circles on Day Two of the fiercely rampant Carmel blaze, that Israel may also be beset by a wave of deliberately-set fires. Officers talking to debkafile's sources did not identity the hand behind these attacks, commenting only that Israel appears to be confronted with a new kind of warfare outside its experience.
As night fell high over the Carmel range and the planes withdrew, the flames kept on returning to places where they had been extinguished by exhausted Israeli firefighters with the help of crews and special planes from a dozen countries. Bet Oren, Haifa's Danya suburb and Haifa University are again in the path of the fire.
An deliberate attempt to set on fire the fields of Mishmar Henegev in the south, not far from a military base was hardly noticed amid the agonizing effort to beat back the awesome flames of the biggest fire disaster Israel has ever faced. Seventeen endangered locations were partly or fully evacuated leaving more than 17,000 in temporary shelters.
Arson was strongly suspected as the cause of separate fires erupting in three more places – Kiryat Tivon southeast of Haifa and two outside the Carmel region in Kiryat Bialik north of Haifa and Shfaram to the east.
Northern District Police Chief Shimon Koren reported several firebomb attacks had taken place in the Haifa district Friday, after police backed by an Air Force drone caught two arsonists red-handed lobbing firebombs in several directions from a deserted spot on Mt. Carmel.
A police ambush backed by an Air Force drone trapped two men who, after looking around and seeing they were alone, lobbed firebombs in several directions.They were not identified except for the fact that they were in their thirties and came from the village of Daliat Hacarmel.
It was initially assumed that the pair was part of a larger network or gang, which had sett fires on the Carmel and later in other parts of the country as part of a deliberate campaign of sabotage. Later, the police played down the incident, claiming the two men had not been handling firebombs but combustible materials and had been released. All the same, the investigators decided to bring the Shin Bet, Israel's domestic security agency, into their inquiry – a pointer to their real thinking.
The fires which broke out Friday night near Bat Shlomo and Haifa's Neve Yaacov were both suspected arson and closed. Highway 70 which connects the area south of Haifa to Galilee.
Friday morning, near Kiryat Bialik, police found an abandoned bike and a wig, apparently abandoned by another arsonist who had apparently disguised himself with a wig and planned to ignite the local gas pump and start a fire that would have spread quickly to the factories of heavily-industrialized Haifa Bay.
Spotting the police, he dumped the wig and made off.
The suspicion of a politically-motivated arson conspiracy was further suggested by the damage caused the bronze statue of Alexander Zaid, the founder of the pre-state early 20th century Jewish defense organization, a frequent object of Israeli Arab vandals.
A third attempt to set dense foliage on fire was discovered in near Shefaram. Had it succeeded, a conflagration on the same scale as the Carmel disaster could have swept Western Galilee.
The two-day blaze has covered 35,000 dunams of the Carmel beauty spot, a favorite nature preserve and park of picnickers and nature-lovers, and destroyed at least four million trees.