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Israeli police detains Palestinians over suspicion of arson, gun smuggling

12:00 Nov 30 2016 near Israel's Atarot industrial settlement in West Back, and Nataf

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BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- Israeli forces detained three Palestinians over suspicions of starting fires in Jerusalem and Israel on Tuesday and Wednesday, while at least four Palestinians were detained over accusations of smuggling weapons from Israel into the occupied West Bank to support Palestinian political groups.

Israeli police spokeswoman Luba al-Samri said in a statement Wednesday that Israeli forces had detained two 16-year-old Palestinians allegedly attempting to set a fire from a “pile of tires [...] and tree branches” near the industrial zone of Atarot.

According to al-Samri, the detainees had a lighter and papers in their possession, while “their clothes had residue from the fire.” They were taken in for interrogation.

In another incident on Wednesday, a Palestinian was detained on suspicions of throwing a Molotov cocktail into the Israeli town of Nataf in central Israel, sparking a fire, according to Israeli news media Ynet.

The detainee was reportedly a Palestinian from the West Bank village of Qatanna in the Jerusalem district. However, no more information was provided on the Palestinian's identity.

Remnants of Molotov cocktails were found in the area during an investigation launched by the Jerusalem Fire and Rescue Services, while another Molotov was found near the Israeli separation barrier that cuts through the West Bank, Ynet reported.

The fire reportedly destroyed some 25,000 dunams (6,178 acres) of a forest and caused damage to buildings in the town.

Scores of Palestinians have been detained over suspicions of arson or inciting others to commit arson, at least 10 of whom were Palestinians with Israeli citizenship.

Critics have claimed that Israeli politicians were quick to blame Palestinians for the fires as a political maneuver to further convince the international community of Palestinian hostility toward the Israeli state.

Meanwhile, the Joint List -- the Israeli parliament coalition representing Palestinian citizens of Israel -- and the Fatah movement of the occupied West Bank condemned Palestinians who have celebrated the fires for revenge over the adhan controversy, while Palestinian civil defense crews have provided reinforcement in order to assist Israel in controlling the fires in Haifa and Jerusalem.

On Tuesday, Israeli border forces also detained at least four Palestinians over suspicions of smuggling weapons to Palestinian organizations in the West Bank, Israeli media reported.

According to Israeli media, two of the detainees were from the Negev in southern Israel, while the other two were from Hebron in the southern West Bank and had entered Israel without permits.

The four reportedly were taken for interrogations with Israeli intelligence, as Israeli authorities suspect they were planning to smuggle the weapons for their use in an attack against Israel by a Palestinian political group.


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