NEWS

Forest Fires near Jerusalem Could Have Been Arson Attacks

June 10, 2021

by: Kate Norman

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Aerial Firefighting Unit drill after the Mount Carmel fire in 2011 (illustrative)

Thursday, 10 June 2021 | Several wildfires on the outskirts of Jerusalem yesterday may have been arson, authorities say.

The Wednesday afternoon fires burned throughout the Jerusalem hills, reportedly sparking on Mount Haruach and spreading to an area close to the communities of Abu Gosh, Neve Ilan and Ma’ale Hahashmina.

Based on the large number of fires which began at the same time, authorities suspect the cause could be arson, the Jerusalem Post reported, citing sources within Israel’s Fire and Rescue Services.

Young men were seen fleeing the area of one of the fires, Channel 12 reported, citing police testimonies.

“We still haven’t come to a conclusion about the cause of the fire,” Jerusalem Fire and Rescue Services District Commander Nissim Twito told Channel 13 news yesterday, adding that they are still investigating but that the cause could be “nationalistic,” based on the history of the area.

The fires initially sparked close to the boundary between Jerusalem and the region of Judea and Samaria, the so-called “West Bank,” an area that has experienced violence in the past.

Fire and Rescue Commissioner Dedi Simchi told Channel 12 that he doesn’t know if the fires were caused by arson, but “there is no doubt that this incident is a little complicated and strange.” The commissioner earlier said that the fires were manmade, but he wasn’t sure whether it was on purpose or by accident, the Times of Israel reported.

The fires scorched an estimated 2,650 dunams (655 acres), though no casualties or property damage were reported.

Emergency teams worked throughout the afternoon and night, battling the heat and high winds to put out the fire. Israel dispatched 70 teams of firefighters, 10 planes and two helicopters to combat the blazes, the Jerusalem Post reported.

Residents at a nearby kibbutz (collective community) were ordered by police to evacuate yesterday but were later allowed to return once the emergency responders had safely contained the flames.

Transportation was also interrupted yesterday, as some roads in the area were closed for a while—particularly part of Route 1 between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv—and the train between the two cities was shut down for a few hours as well.

Flames also sparked near Ariel in the Samaria region, again causing no reports of casualties or damage. The firefighting teams there included volunteer and reservist firefighters from the Samaria station as well as firefighting teams from the Palestinian Authority.

The fire in the Jerusalem hills burned through parts of the national park in Mount Haruach, which is joined with a Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael–Jewish National Fund (KKL–JNF) forest.

It is one of the oldest forests in Israel, JNS pointed out, planted nearly a century ago.

“Hundreds of acres of forest have been burned away, perhaps even more,” a KKL–JNF forester told JNS. “The trees we’ve lost were 100-year-old pines and lots of natural woodlands that have developed throughout the years.”

Authorities are reportedly reviewing security footage and other evidence to determine whether there were sinister intentions behind the blazes.

Posted on June 10, 2021

Source: (Bridges for Peace, June 10, 2021)

Photo Credit: IDF Spokesperson Unit/flickr.com

Photo License: flickr.com

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