2 Usfiya brothers held for suspected criminal negligence

Bonfire may have started Carmel inferno; more arrests could follow as police investigating possible arson incidents.

Police insp.-gen. David Cohen 311 (photo credit: Ben Hartman)
Police insp.-gen. David Cohen 311
(photo credit: Ben Hartman)
Two teenage brothers from Usfiya were under arrest on Saturday on suspicion of negligent conduct during a family outing on Thursday in the Carmel Mountains that police said was likely responsible for the Carmel inferno.
A police source told The Jerusalem Post that further arrests “were possible” as the investigation continued.
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By Friday, police – after tracking the fire down to a single source in the forest – were leaning toward the idea that negligence was behind the blaze.
The youths were arrested by officers belonging to a special investigation team assembled by the central unit of the Hof police sub-district.
“According to our initial findings, based on an analysis of findings on the ground, the fire was caused by negligence,” Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld told the Post. Reports that the teens were suspected of hurling burning waste products during a picnic could not be confirmed.
The investigation of the incident is in its early phases, and police have cautioned against drawing premature conclusions.
Meanwhile, police and firefighters had to contend with sporadic fires that erupted far from the main Carmel fire zone, leading investigators to conclude that arsonists were attempting to “hitch a ride” on the Carmel disaster.
On Friday, two men in their 30s from Daliat al- Carmel were arrested on suspicion of hurling flammable materials into the Carmel forest, after reportedly being spotted by a pilot from above. But the men were released without charge on Saturday. The arrests were condemned by Druse leaders as being symptomatic of a “blame game” they said was being directed against them.
On Friday, a fire broke out in Kiryat Bialik’s Tzur Shalom industrial zone, forcing the evacuation of a nearby factory. The flames were brought under control by firefighters within several hours. Police reported finding a bicycle and a bag containing a wig near the area, increasing suspicions that arson was involved.
A blaze that broke out in Tivon was also likely the result of arson, police said.
“There have been a number of arson attacks in the northern district,” Police Insp.-Gen. David Cohen said during an emergency press conference on Friday evening at Haifa University.
Additional suspicious fires erupting over the weekend were seen in the following areas: near the Galilee village of Adi, at Bet Shlomo Junction by Route 70 in the vicinity of Nazareth, and near Kfar Mashad.
A small fire erupted in Haifa’s Nave Yosef neighborhood on Friday afternoon. All the fires were out by midnight.
“We’ve been seeing these kinds of arson attacks for many years,” Fire Service official Boaz Arkia said.
A brush fire broke out in the Jerusalem Forest on Saturday around 1 p.m., Jerusalem District police reported. Firefighters and police responded to the blaze and had it under control within an hour, and the fire was completely put out by 4 p.m.
Police are treating the brushfire as arson after hikers nearby reported two suspects fleeing from the area where the fire started.
A police investigation is ongoing. The fire burned a total of 2.5 dunams of forest and open land, and there was never any danger of damage to homes or people in nearby Tsur Hadassah.
Melanie Lidman contributed to this report.