Suspects Arrested for Setting Fire That Devastated Forests Near Haifa

Ten suspects have been detained for questioning in connection with the fire Tuesday that destroyed at least 2,500 acres of forest and underbrush on the Carmel range, south of Haifa.

There is no question that arson was the cause, according to police and fire officials, who linked it to the Palestinian uprising. They said the arsonists started the fire simultaneously at five different spots at about one-mile intervals.

An anonymous caller speaking in Arabic told Israel Television’s Arabic service Tuesday night that the fire was the work of a group called “Direct Revenge.”

Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir told the Arabic language service of Israel Radio that the arsonists were out “to destroy all life in Israel.”

Fanned by a Hamsin, the hot desert wind, the fire burned through the night. Areas of the Carmel parkland were still smoldering by morning.

No casualties were reported, however.

Scores of firefighters and Jewish National Fund employees, as well as thousands of police officers and volunteers, continued to work Wednesday to stamp out the remaining patches of flame.

No estimate has been given of the damage. But a JNF official surveying the blackened acres said it would take up to 50 years before the charred trees and underbrush are replaced either naturally or by planting.

TWO OTHER FIRES REPORTED

Wardens of Hai Bar, the Mount Carmel Animal Sanctuary, said that while many of the animals were led to safety, scores died. The animals include rare species mentioned in the Bible that are being bred to raise new herds.

The fire provided a test for a new liquid chemical that, mixed with water, suffocates a blaze for lack of oxygen.

It was dropped by light aircraft and helicopters during the night with “amazing results,” fire officials said.

In New York, JNF spokesman Stuart Paskow said his office was waiting for a full report on the extent of the damage, but he said an emergency campaign would probably be conducted in the United States.

Arson is suspected in two relatively minor fires reported Tuesday night. One ignited a grove of eucalyptus trees in Rishon le-Zion.

In the Tel Aviv suburb of Tzahala, a group of wooden huts was set afire, but did not spread to neighboring homes where many senior officers of the Israel Defense Force live. The huts are used in summer by a scouting troop.

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