9 Israeli municipalities to receive fire compensation from terror funds

Marcy Oster

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Haifa is among nine Israeli cities and towns listed by the Israeli government hit by fires that were caused by arson and may have been terror motivated.

The list released on Tuesday by the Tax Authority will allow the residents of those communities whose property was destroyed in the massive wildfires to obtain government compensation for their losses, the Hebrew-language Walla news website reported. The money would come from two government funds earmarked for victims of terror and war.

Joining Haifa on the list are the town of Zichron Yaakov and the communal settlement of Tal-El, located in northern Israel, as well as the communal settlement of Nataf in the Jerusalem Hills and five West Bank settlements: Dolev, Gilon, Talmon, Nirit and Halamish, also known as Neve Tzuf, according to reports.

Some of the fires may be a combination of negligence enhanced by arsonists.

Insurance for wildfires is not part of most basic insurance packages in Israel.

Some 1,773 fires were extinguished Nov. 18-26, The Times of Israel reported, citing the Fire and Rescue Services spokesman. Several dozen are believed to have been intentionally set. At least 35 people have been arrested since Thursday in connection with fires, according to The Times of Israel.

Walla reported, citing police sources, that police are frustrated with the Tax Authority’s announcement, saying there has been no final determination of the cause of  the fires.

“During our discussions with the Tax Authority, we transferred to them the information and findings of the investigation so far, but at no stage did we tell them that this is a terrorist incident,” a police source told Walla. “It was unclear how they came to the final conclusion as published in their statement this morning, as if everything was terror-related.”

An Arab-Israeli man from the northern village of Umm al-Fahm is set to be indicted for setting three fires in the Wadi Ara area, according to Walla.

Israeli lawmakers have called on the Finance Ministry to pay compensation to all victims of the fires, no matter where they live and what caused the fire. On Saturday night, Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon announced that he would pay out about $650 to each citizen displaced from their home due to the fires.