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Israeli Settlers Forced To Flee As Wildfires Spread In West Bank

Israeli Settlers Forced To Flee As Wildfires Spread In West Bank

Israeli settlers have been forced to flee as wildfires have started to spread through areas near to settlements in the occupied West Bank.

According to a police spokeswoman on Saturday nearly 1,000 settlers were forced to leave the Halamish settlement near the occupied West Bank city of Ramallah as 45 settler units were either damaged or destroyed by the fires.

The blazes, fueled by drought and high winds, were raging in many locations throughout the Israeli-occupied territories on Friday . The fire in Israels third largest city Haifa has forced some 80,000 people to flee.

Press TV reports:

Fires were also reported approaching the settlements of Dolev, Alfei Menashe, and Karnei Shomron in the occupied West Bank. No evacuations were reported there, however.

A lack of downpours together with very dry air and strong easterly winds contributed to the spread of the fires this week across the Israeli-occupied lands.

 An Israeli firefighter plane helps extinguish a fire in Haifa on November 24, 2016. (Photo by AFP)

An Israeli firefighter plane helps extinguish a fire in Haifa on November 24, 2016. (Photo by AFP)

Israeli officials have suggested, however, that Arabs or Palestinians may be to blame for some of the blazes.

The Israeli police spokeswoman further said that they had arrested 14 people on suspicion of sparking the fires either deliberately or by negligence, without giving details on their identities.

Firefighting planes have arrived from Russia, Turkey, Greece, France, Spain, and Canada and continue to battle the fires at affected locations, including the village of Nataf near Jerusalem al-Quds.

People in Haifa, the hardest-hit city, have begun to return to assess the damage. The fire forced tens of thousands of them to flee on Thursday.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Friday there was “no doubt” some of the fires reported had been set deliberately.

Earlier, the Fatah movement of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said the regime in Tel Aviv is “exploiting the fire” to level new allegations against Palestinians.

“What is burning are our trees and our land of historical Palestine,” said the West Bank-based movement in a statement.

The Palestinians reportedly joined the efforts overnight to put out the fires, sending 41 firefighters and eight trucks to Haifa.