Two teenage brothers from the northern Druze town of Usfiya were arrested on Saturday on suspicion of starting the fire that has ravaged the heavily-forested Carmel Mountains.
Police officials said that their investigation had traced the start of the fire back to an area just outside Usfiya. The two Druze boys are suspected of burning trash there during a family outing and then leaving the fire unattended.
It is a very common occurrence in Israel for Arab and Druze youth to burn garbage. With last Thursday’s high winds and the unprecedented dryness of the local forests, that was a recipe for disaster.
Police said their investigation continues, and other arrests are likely, but noted that at this point it appears the fire was caused by negligence and not an act of arson.
However, with nearly every firefighter in Israel busy battling the Carmel blaze, fires are being purposely started other areas of the country.
“There have been a number of arson attacks in the northern district,” Police Insp.-Gen. David Cohen said at a press conference on Friday. A day later, a small fire in the Jerusalem Forest was quickly brought under control. Hikers later told police they spotted two suspects fleeing from the area where the fire started.