Europe

The Latest: Israeli PM blames fires on 'arsonists' terror'

  • A firefighting plane from Greece fights a wildfire over Haifa, Israel, Thursday, Nov. 24, 2016. A raging wildfire ripped through parts of Israel's third-largest city on Thursday, forcing tens of thousands of people to evacuate their homes and prompting a rare call-up of hundreds of military reservists to join overstretched police and firefighters. Spreading quickly due to dry, windy weather, the fire quickly spread through Haifa's northern neighborhoods. While there were no serious injuries, several dozen people were hospitalized for smoke inhalation. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)

    A firefighting plane from Greece fights a wildfire over Haifa, Israel, Thursday, Nov. 24, 2016. A raging wildfire ripped through parts of Israel's third-largest city on Thursday, forcing tens of thousands of people to evacuate their homes and prompting a rare call-up of hundreds of military reservists to join overstretched police and firefighters. Spreading quickly due to dry, windy weather, the fire quickly spread through Haifa's northern neighborhoods. While there were no serious injuries, several dozen people were hospitalized for smoke inhalation. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)  (The Associated Press)

  • Firefighters work in Haifa, Israel, Thursday, Nov. 24, 2016. A raging wildfire ripped through parts of Israel's third-largest city on Thursday, forcing tens of thousands of people to evacuate their homes and prompting a rare call-up of hundreds of military reservists to join overstretched police and firefighters. Spreading quickly due to dry, windy weather, the fire quickly spread through Haifa's northern neighborhoods. While there were no serious injuries, several dozen people were hospitalized for smoke inhalation. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)

    Firefighters work in Haifa, Israel, Thursday, Nov. 24, 2016. A raging wildfire ripped through parts of Israel's third-largest city on Thursday, forcing tens of thousands of people to evacuate their homes and prompting a rare call-up of hundreds of military reservists to join overstretched police and firefighters. Spreading quickly due to dry, windy weather, the fire quickly spread through Haifa's northern neighborhoods. While there were no serious injuries, several dozen people were hospitalized for smoke inhalation. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)  (The Associated Press)

  • Israeli fire fighters work in a home in Haifa, Israel, Thursday, Nov. 24, 2016. A wildfire roared through parts of Israel's third-largest city on Thursday, forcing tens of thousands of people to evacuate their homes and prompting a rare call-up of hundreds of military reservists to join overstretched police and firefighters. Authorities speculated the blaze may have been set by politically-motivated arsonists. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)

    Israeli fire fighters work in a home in Haifa, Israel, Thursday, Nov. 24, 2016. A wildfire roared through parts of Israel's third-largest city on Thursday, forcing tens of thousands of people to evacuate their homes and prompting a rare call-up of hundreds of military reservists to join overstretched police and firefighters. Authorities speculated the blaze may have been set by politically-motivated arsonists. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)  (The Associated Press)

The Latest on the wildfires in Israel (all times local):

7 p.m.

Israel's prime minister is blaming "arsonists' terror" for some of the fires raging across the country.

Speaking to reporters Thursday in Haifa, where the largest of several wildfires around the country has prompted the evacuation of tens of thousands of people, Benjamin Netanyahu said those setting the fires would be "punished severely."

Netanyahu did not elaborate on the identity of the suspected arsonists or their motives, but Israeli officials typically use "terror" to refer to Arab or Palestinian militant activity.

Earlier, Israel's police chief said arrests have been made, without elaborating.

Some 50,000 people have been evacuated from Haifa, Israel's third largest city. Fires have been sparked around the country for several days, with dry, windy weather spreading the flames quickly.

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10:30 a.m.

Israeli police have arrested four Palestinians in connection with one of several large fires that damaged homes and prompted the evacuation of thousands of people over the past few days.

Spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said on Thursday that police are investigating all possible causes, including arson. Windy and hot weather have helped fan the flames.

He says the blazes started three days ago at the Neve Shalom community near Jerusalem where Israelis and Arabs live together.

Later, fires erupted in the northern Israeli area of Zichron Yaakov and elsewhere near Jerusalem. In all, hundreds of homes have been damaged and thousands of people have been evacuated. About a dozen were treated for smoke inhalation.

Cyprus, Russia, Italy and other countries are assisting the Israeli firefighters with equipment as the fires continue.