After combating unprecedented devastation and destruction, Israel now turns to the future – to rebuilding and rehabilitation.
The spate of blazes Israel has been contending with for the past week has subsided with only a few fires erupting on Sunday, while the mass blazes in the Jerusalem area and the north have been brought under control by the firefighters.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu convened a special Cabinet meeting on Sunday in Haifa, the hardest-hit city, where major blazes forced tens of thousands of people to flee from their homes. While most have returned, some 600 people remain in alternate housing.
Almost 1,800 apartments were damaged in the massive fires in Haifa, and over 500 apartments have been deemed unfit for habitation. The total damage to private buildings in Haifa is estimated at half a billion Shekels.
The meeting was attended by council heads from across the north whose communities were affected by the fires.
Netanyahu said that the threat of further fires is not over yet, but the government’s focus has moved towards recovery and rehabilitation efforts. He vowed to cut the red-tape bureaucracy and fast track the moves needed to start rebuilding and reimbursing victims.
“All government ministries are committed to extending a hand to you quickly, to shorten the bureaucracy, and I say to brutally shorten the bureaucracy, to bring you assistance, relief and rebuilding as soon as possible. In the meantime, we will do everything necessary to maintain your remaining property,” Netanyahu stated.
Interior Ministry Director-General Mordechai Cohen stated that 14 local authorities that were affected by the fires received immediate assistance totaling tens of millions of Shekels.
No one was killed in the multiple blazes, but dozens were hospitalized for smoke inhalation, thousands of homes were damaged and tens of thousands of acres of greenery were consumed by the fires.
Initial investigations point to at least a third of the fires being caused by Arabs arsonists.
“Whoever starts a fire, either by malice or negligence, whoever incites to arson – we will act against them with full force,” Netanyahu vowed.
Israel’s security forces have arrested some 30 suspects, mostly Palestinians, in connection with the fires.
Netanyahu also announced the establishment of a multi-national force that will coordinate action in times of disaster in the region and the acquisition of planes, thus achieving multi-national effectiveness in dealing with gigantic fires. “I have spoken about this with several leaders from the region. I must say that they have shown great interest in the idea and we will advance it,” he said.
By: Aryeh Savir, World Israel News