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Heat, Arson, ‘tree Terkorism’ Destroying Israeli Forests

June 13, 1988
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

Israel’s forests have been ravaged by massive fires, and experts are blaming the extreme heat, camper carelessness, army maneuvers and politically motivated arson for the conflagrations.

Although forestry experts have pointed fingers at careless Israelis, the majority of the fires, which have ravaged over 25,000 acres of land in just five weeks, are attributed to arson perpetrated by Palestinians, a new form of fighting in the “intifada,” the six-month-old Palestinian uprising.

This past weekend, police arrested four Arabs suspected of having ignited a significant number of fires that devastated thousands of acres throughout the country Friday and Saturday.

This latest wave of fires strengthened the belief that Arabs within the Green Line and in the Israeli-administered territories have resorted to arson as another means of political protest.

On Sunday, Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir referred to the arsonists as “those who attack our natural resources… criminal enemies.”

In an impassioned address in the Knesset building made during an environmental-award ceremony, Shamir said Israel would “concentrate all our resources” on fighting this scourge.

He called upon all Israelis to lend a hand in combatting the rash of fires “that are eating our land and threatening to return us to the desert.”


Earlier in the day, the weekly Cabinet meeting heard reports on the fires that have swept the country in recent weeks. Since the beginning of May, 160 fires have destroyed about 120,000 trees and thousands of acres of grasslands.

The police have been heavily involved in fire prevention and have set up a special fire-prevention force using helicopters as their chief mode of operation. However, Police Minister Haim Barlev told his colleagues that the police could not shoulder the burden alone.

Barlev agreed that some of the fires could be attributed to the especially hot weather that Israel has been experiencing recently. However, he said many of the fires were caused by arson.

Barlev said most fires were being started by children who were sent by adults with political motivation.

This weekend’s fires reportedly broke out at 10 separate locations simultaneously, making arson a likely cause.

From north to south, fires were reported on pasture land and a grove on the Golan Heights; in the Galilee, fields in the area of Kfar Yuval and Kibbutz Hagoshrim, as well as a forest on Mount Turan; fields and a grove in the area of Zichron Ya’acov; fields along the Tel Aviv-Haifa highway, near Kibbutz Ma’agan Michael; a forest near Regavim in the Coastal Plain; fields near the Ramot neighborhood of Jerusalem and at the Eshkol Park in the Negev.

The largest fire occurred near Nes Harim, where some 1,250 acres of natural forest as well as pasture land, chicken houses and plantations were burned down.

The fires are being fought by a combination of JNF, police and fire departments, Nature Reserves Authority and volunteers.

Last week, JNF spokesman David Angel said more than half of this unprecedented increase in fires could be attributed to arson linked to the Palestinian uprising.

JNF Chairman Moshe Rivlin called it the “intifada against trees.” But he also cautioned against Israelis whose “worst problem is indifference.”

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