TEL AVIV (Oct. 21)
A wave of arson attacks has taken a heavy toll on forests, nature reserves and grazing fields throughout Israel, the Jewish National Found announced Sunday.
Some 600 acres of natural forest and brush, including 200-year-old oak trees, have been destroyed by 30 fires of suspicious origin since Palestinian nationalist leaders exhorted their followers to burn Israeli property in the wake of the Oct. 8 riots on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.
“During recent days, cases of arson have been carried out in a systematic and preplanned manner, which has encumbered firefighting efforts and caused severe damage to fauna and flora,” said an announcement issued by JNF.
Firefighting efforts have been impeded by severe heat and strong wind, conditions of the Sharav desert wind.
The attacks on vegetation are similar suspicious fires that broke out after the Palestinian uprising erupted in December 1987.
This time, however, a “new phenomenon” present: simultaneous fires set at night in a number of places and along a defined route, JNF said.
In Wadi Ara, a fire was set in a JNF for and arsonists built stone roadblocks to impede firefighters’ access, according to JNF. The arsonists also chopped down areas of green trees.
JNF says damage has been relatively limited “thanks to high alert on the part of JNF employees and firefighting preparations.”