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JERUSALEM, Israel – While tens of thousands of Israeli families spent Thursday night in shelters to escape massive fires threatening their neighborhoods, tweets praising the arson spread like wildfire on Arabic-language social media platforms.
“#Israel is burning” was retweeted hundreds of thousands of times, becoming the third highest Arabic-language tweet in Israel and several neighboring countries.
Shurat haDin, monitoring Arabic-language social media, reported that “#Tel_Aviv_IsBurning” was trending Friday morning, possibly to incite would-be arsonists that Tel Aviv is next.
An estimated 80,000 Israelis were evacuated from Haifa Thursday and some 600 homes destroyed by fire. Israel Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld reported Friday morning that residents of six Haifa neighborhoods were able to return to their homes.
And though several hundred Israelis were treated for smoke inhalation over the past several days, not one life has been lost despite the enormous devastation.
At a press conference Thursday evening, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu promised the arsonists will be held accountable.
“Anyone attempting to burn parts of the State of Israel will be punished,” he said, calling arson and incitement to arson “terrorism in all respects.”
By Friday morning, 12 suspects were in custody and police were looking for others.
Overnight Thursday, firefighting crews battled new blazes, including one in the town of Beit Meir about halfway between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, evacuating 300 people.
Meanwhile in France, Muslim immigrants torched 26 cars in an upscale neighborhood in Paris, presumably expressing their dissatisfaction with people who own nice vehicles. It’s not the first time. Last year, 150 vehicles were burned up in one night.
All this destruction took place as American families gathered around festive holiday tables to celebrate Thanksgiving, following a tradition that began with the Pilgrims thanking God for His many blessings.
A number of Israelis and Americans are praying for abundant winter rains to quench the fires and spur new growth on the scorched land.