Two members of Druze Village have been arrested for Arson at this time. They apparently were throwing molotov cocktails out of their car and probably were responsible for many of the fires in the north. The Mt. Carmel fire started from one spot, according to investigators, but they haven't determined whether it was an accident or arson.
At least SOME of this fire can be attributed to terrorist activity. I am certain that, when the facts are finally known, the 40 victims on this bus, those who have lost their homes, those who have lost their livelihood and their crops and their orchards are victims of this terrorist act.
Please see the developing story.
May Hashm comfort the families of those so tragically lost in this fire. They were on their way to help the prisoners, to make sure the prisoners were safe. They gave their lives for their charges.
G-d bless them.
22 Confirmed Dead in Fire, Most were on Prisons Service Bus
by Gil Ronen and Hillel Fendel
Dozens of security personnel, many from the Israel Prisons Service, are believed to have perished in the fire that has been raging on the Carmel Mountain all day Thursday. Many of them are said to be IPS cadets. Twenty two people were confirmed dead by 7:00 PM and the total number of dead is estimated at 40.
If the fire was set by Arab arsonists – a likely possibility at this point – this is the deadliest terror attack since Israel's founding.Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said Thursday evening that the fire on the Carmel range is "a disaster of a scope that we are not familiar with."M
Most of the casualties are reportedly Israel Prisons Service cadets, who were in their 20's.They were being transported on a bus after assisting in the evacuation of the Damon Prison. At a certain point the fire began spreading at great speed – covering a mile in five minutes, according to a firefighting officer – and the bus was caught in the flames with no chance of getting out.
Minister of Public Security Yitzchak Aharonovich said Thursday evening that the fire is under “currently under control,” but Fire Services Spokesman Hezi Levy said the opposite. The fire, he said, is out of control and is raging in three major locations: the Druze village of Usefiya, Beit Oren, and Nir Etzion.
Residents of religious kibbutz Nir Etzion, the Ein Hod artists' village and the nearby Arab village Ein Hud have been instructed to leave their homes, after it was determined that the fire might reach the communities.
The residents of Kibbutz Beit Oren and Usefiyeh were evacuated earlier in the day, as were the students of Haifa University, which is somewhat further away. Several homes in Usefiya have been burnt to the ground. Haifa University has been closed down until further notice.
The Brosh neighborhood in Tirat HaCarmel and a mental health hospital in Tirat HaCarmel may also be evacuated.
A resident of Beit Oren told Channel 2 news that several homes in the kibbutz burned down. Firefighters' spokesman Levy called Beit Oren "the former kibbutz of Beit Oren" in an evening interview, and said most of the homes in the comnmunity had been damaged.
Channel 2 reporter Yossi Mizrachi said that the way in which the fire spread indicated that the blaze erupted from three locations simultaneously -- making arson a likely possibility.
MK Yaakov Katz (Ketzaleh) of the National Union is the first leader to publicly give voice the possibility that the fire was a terror attack – “an act of arson that turned into a massacre,” in his words. Most of the large forest fires in Israel were set by hostile Arabs, Katz said. He noted that he had proposed a bill for minimum punishment of terror arsonists and blamed Justice Minister Yaakov Ne'eman for torpedoing it.
The fire broke out around 10:00 AM this morning in an illegal garbage dump in the Carmel Mountains.
Ongoing rescue and fire-fighting efforts are said to be nearly impossible given the physical conditions of the mountains, smoke, dry conditions and winds.
The trapped bus is said to have departed from the Damon Prison, apparently as part of the attempt to evacuate the prison in the face of the fast-spreading fire.
The Damon jail mostly holds Arabs who were caught illegally entering Israel from the Palestinian Authority. According to IDF Radio, however, the bus was "not a prisoner bus."
40 prison guards killed on bus as huge fire rages in North
By JPOST.COM STAFF AND YAAKOV LAPPIN
Guards meant to assist in evacuation of some 500 prisoners from Damon Prison; fire-fighting crews, planes attempt to control fire in Carmel area amidst heavy winds; thousands of dunams destroyed.
The majority of the 40 people burned to death in a bus caught up in the Carmel forest fires were prison wardens en route to the Damon Prison.
The wardens were meant to assist in the evacuation of some 500 prisoners from the facility, situated near Kibbutz Beit Oren, when their vehicle became engulfed in fast moving flames which had spread to the narrow mountain road linking Atlit to Kibbutz Bet Oren.
A firefighter spokesman said the blaze had traveled 1500 meters in less than three minutes, adding, "the bus had no chance. They tried to escape but were burned alive. It was a horrific scene."
The spokesman added that the fire was very far from the road on which the bus was travelling when it first set off towards the prison, but had spread far faster than expected.
Fire and Rescue Commissioner Shimon Romach added that the firefighting operation would be limited to ground forces after sunset, since fire planes cannot be used at night. "I don't think we will get control of this tonight," he added.
Thousands of dunams have gone up in flames in the Carmel forest between Haifa University and Ussafiya, and it remains unclear how the incident will end at this stage.
Police described the incident as a "major disaster. Many of the dead are from the security forces, and include civilians. The fire is continuing to spread and is endangering many areas."
Police have asked the public to stay clear of the whole area.
Traffic Police sealed off Route 4 between Beit Oren and Haifa over fears that fires could spread to the Atlit-Tirat Hacarmel area. Police have instructed drivers to use Routes 2 or 6 instead and to stay away from the area.
The area in question contains heavy brush which burns easily, according to firefighters. This fact coupled with strong winds has prompted the evacuations and the presence of multiple fire crews brought in to help with the blaze from various districts in the country.
Additional number for information for families: 08 977 5717