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Fires Destroy Part of Moshav; Arson and Negligence Suspected

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A field and brush fire Wednesday destroyed part of Moshav Ahihud in western Galilee, causing damage estimated in the millions of dollars.

Several villagers were treated for smoke inhalation, but there were no casualties.

The blaze was one of many that broke out in widely separated areas of Galilee and the Golan Heights during the day, fanned by a hot, dry wind known as the Sharav.

The authorities said arson was suspected in some of the fires, but most were probably due to negligence.

Intifada activists were exhorted to kill Jews and set fire to their crops in a leaflet circulated this week by Hamas, the Islamic fundamentalist group based in the Gaza Strip.

But it specified Oct. 21 and 22 as the occasion for the crop burning.

Police and firefighters said the majority of the blazes were likely the results of carelessness on the part of farmers burning off garbage or people casually throwing away lit cigarettes.

The strong wind, temperatures in the high 80s and very low humidity were mentioned as contributing factors.

The fire spread rapidly at Moshav Ahihud, which is located on the Acre-Safed road.

Residents drove panicked cattle from threatened barns and herded them safely in distant fields. But some 20 cows tethered to milking yokes were asphyxiated or burned to death. A number of houses, farm buildings and an orchard were destroyed as well.

Fire brigades from nearby communities fought the blaze, helped by local residents and Jewish National Fund personnel. The air force sent helicopters and light planes to pour water from above. The fire was finally contained.

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