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Israeli forces detain 3 Palestinians for suspected arson

Dec. 18, 2016 3:26 P.M. (Updated: Dec. 18, 2016 5:58 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- The Israeli army said on Sunday it had detained three Palestinians from the village of Iskaka in the northern occupied West Bank district of Salfit on Nov. 26 in connection with a suspected arson adjacent to the nearby illegal Israeli settlement of Ariel, which came amid a string of wildfires last month across the occupied territory and Israel.

An Israeli army spokesperson confirmed to Ma’an the information -- which was cleared for publication by Israeli authorities on Sunday after lifting a gag order imposed on the investigations -- saying the arrests were made as part of a joint security operation.

Hebrew news sources on Sunday quoted the army as saying the motive behind the fires was "nationalistic."

In the wake of the fires that began late November, scores of Palestinians have been arrested in the region as Israeli leadership alleged that they were started deliberately as "political arson" against the Israeli state.

Israeli police have rejected broad claims that the fires were set for “nationalist” or “terrorist” motives, and investigations are still ongoing.

Israeli officials said that out of the total 1,773 reported fires, centered largely in and around Jerusalem and Haifa, just 29 were suspected arson.

Earlier this month, the Joint List, the Israeli parliament coalition representing Palestinian citizens of Israel, said they planned to file a lawsuit against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for “incitement against Arabs,” after Netanyahu accused “terrorists” of seeking to “engulf our region with hate,” warning that Palestinians who celebrated the fires would be “brought to justice.”

Head of the Joint List Ayman Odeh responded in a statement by saying that "Everyone knows that there wasn't a wave of terrorism -- there wasn't a 'fire Intifada.'”

Odeh added that although the "terror" claims were disproved, still "thousands of Jews incited against Arabs and called for them to be murdered...not even one of them has been investigated."

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