Israel fires: At least 50,000 people evacuated as PM blames 'arsonists' terror'

Wildfire rages in a wood near the northern city of Haifa Credit: Reuters

Arsonists are being blamed for the enormous wildfires ripping through Israel for a third day, forcing the evacuation of at least 50,000 people.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said those setting the fires would be "punished severely", after police reported four Palestinians had been arrested in connection with the blaze.

Dry, windy weather is causing the flames to spread quickly through Haifa’s northern neighbourhoods.

Mr Netanyahu told reporters he blames "arsonists' terror" for some of the fires.

No serious injuries have been reported as yet, but several dozen people are in hospital being treated for smoke inhalation.

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

The fire has prompted a rare call-up of hundreds of military reservists to join overstretched police and firefighters.

Police and firefighters were deployed throughout the city, as people loaded up supermarket carts with belongings and fled their homes.

Elderly people are evacuated from Haifa Credit: Reuters

Some people connected hoses together from apartment buildings to help battle the fires, while residents held cloth over their faces.

Israeli's police chief Roni Alsheich said: “It's safe to assume that whoever is setting the fires isn't doing it only out of pyromania.

“It's safe to assume that if it is arson it is politically-motivated."

It is the largest of several fires to erupt across the country in recent days.