Photo Credit: Michael Lev
Illegal trash fires spreading hazardous materials near Itamar

After a few months in which the residents of Itamar, predominantly Orthodox Jewish community located in the Samarian mountains, three miles southeast of Shechem, could breathe a sigh of relief, by the end of last week they saw the return to action of a nearby pirate Arab garbage dump specializing in burning hazardous materials. Due to the proximity of the Samaria Brigade base to the site, the soldiers serving in the area are also within the range of smoke particles that rise from the fires.

A few months ago, following appeals from the Regavim movement and the Samaria Regional Council to the IDF Civil Administration, an inspection unit and the regional Environmental Protection Officer arrived at the garbage dump, confiscated the engineering tools that were being used, and blocked access roads that had been breached without a permit. Now the dump operators have returned to burn electronic waste at the site.

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On Sunday, Regavim attorneys Avi Segal and Yael Sinmon sent an urgent appeal to the Defense Minister and the Civil Administration saying “the cat and mouse games run by the Palestinian environmental criminals must be stopped completely and the air pollution and health damage to the residents must be stopped. The time has come for the State of Israel to act like a sovereign, and for the sake of our future generations stop this destruction.”

Regavim recently published its “Smelly Story” report, which covers the phenomenon of illegal landfills in Judea and Samaria. According to the initial mapping, there are currently about 200 illegal burning sites, scattered from the southern Hebron hills to northern Samaria, with about a third of them located in Area C, which is entirely under Israeli jurisdiction.

These hundreds of burning sites create a huge amount of smoke that is a major nuisance to nearby communities – Jewish and Arab alike. The ecological damage caused by the burning of waste varies between sites, and depends on their proximity to the settlements, wind direction and changing conditions.

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