As Israel battles wildfires which have spread into the country’s third largest city of Haifa, the state’s detractors have celebrated the devastation.
The fires, some of which are believed to have been started deliberately, have engulfed large areas of central and northern parts of the country, forcing over 80,000 people to flee their homes.
As the crisis unfolded, hashtags including “Tel_Aviv_IsBurning” and “Israel_IsBurning” proliferated on social media.
The imam of Kuwait's Grand Mosque, Sheikh Mishary Alfasy Rashid, stoked outrage by tweeting “All the best to the fire”, to his 11.6 million followers, and included pictures of flames and burning buildings.
— مشاري راشد العفاسي (@Alafasy) November 23, 2016
The incendiary post received over 20,000 retweets in less than 24 hours.
Ofir Gendelman, the Israeli prime minister’s spokesperson for the Arab media, addressed the abuse on Twitter.
“Arabs & Palestinians on social media rejoice over the wildfires that have erupted across Israel. Despicable fanatic hatred. #Israelisburning”
Four Palestinian firefighting teams will join the effort to combat the fires in Israel.
Arabs & Palestinians on social media rejoice over the wildfires that have erupted across Israel. Despicable fanatic hatred. #Israelisburningpic.twitter.com/JKe4LyKwsj— Ofir Gendelman (@ofirgendelman) November 24, 2016
Russia, Turkey, Greece, Italy, Croatia and Cyprus are all also helping fight the blaze, while America has agreed to send a Boeing 747 “Supertanker” firefighting plane.
Israel’s chief of police has blamed the fires on arson attacks, while Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said such an attack would be treated as terrorism.
Israeli police said on Friday they had arrested 12 people on suspicion of arson.
Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld told Reuters a dozen people had been detained either while attempting to set fires or fleeing the area, but he provided no further details.
Internal Security Minister Gilad Erdan said they were “minorities”, an allusion to either Arab Israeli citizens or Palestinians.
“The highest likelihood is that the motive is nationalistic,” Mr Erdan told Army Radio.
The fires in the immediate area around Haifa are now understood to be under control.
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