Last night’s fire at the Jerusalem office of the left-wing human rights group B'Tselem was very likely caused by an electrical failure, a preliminary report by the Israel Fire and Rescue Services says.
B’Tselem Fire “Very Likely” Not Arson, Fire Department Now Says
Shmarya Rosenberg • FailedMessiah.com
Last night’s fire at the Jerusalem office of the left-wing human rights group B'Tselem was very likely caused by an electrical failure, a preliminary report by the Israel Fire and Rescue Services says, Ha’aretz reported.
Investigators are “looking into the very likely possibility that the fire was started by an electrical failure in the office electrical system,” but the investigation is still ongoing and preliminary, Fire and Rescue Services spokesman reportedly said.
Fire and Rescue Services initially suspected arson and have not completely walked back that theory.
An Israel Antiquities Authority worker who was on the first floor of the building when the fire broke out called the fire department and told them that he did suspect anyone else was in the building at the time.
Besides B'Tselem, several other left-wing nonprofits are housed in the building, including the Hand-in-Hand Jewish-Arab schools, and so is the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA), whose office is near B’Tselem’s.
The IAA gets frequent violent threats from haredi extremist groups like Atra Kadisha.
Hand-in-Hand’s Jerusalem school was burned in hate crime arson in November 2014 by two Sefardi haredim linked to the right-wing racist Kahanist anti-miscegenation organization Lehava.
Initial reports said there were at least two separate locations of combustion for last night’s fire. Investigators would likely need to find the location or locations at which the fire started and trace its progress before the fire is declared arson.
However, Jerusalem’s fire apparatus is not known for high quality forensic investigations, in part because fires – other than kitchen or candle fires – are relatively rare in the city because almost every building there is constructed of concrete or stone.
“Following the fire department’s announcement reported in the media that the cause of the fire in our offices was apparantly a electrical short circuit, we are breathing a sigh of relief, and turning to the task of cleaning our office and returning it to activity as soon as possible. In recent hours we experienced wonderful and moving expressions of support and solidarity from friends and supporters in Israel and abroad. We thank everyone and long to return to work until the occupation is over," B’Tselem reportedly said in a statement.