The worst blaze to wreak havoc on the forests surrounding Jerusalem in decades was was man made, firefighting investigators estimate.
The fires, which consumed over 17,000 dunams (4200 acres) of trees and greenery in the hills surrounding the capital throughout Sunday night, were brought under some control and were contained by the firefighters, but continued to burn in some areas on Monday morning.
Hundreds of firefighters in 70 teams took part in the battles to stop the advancing flames, with the help of its Air Fire Squadron, which worked hard to stop the raging fire that threatened entire communities.
Police, MDA, and IDF rescue forces operated to secure the area and help in the rescue efforts, as thousands of Israelis were evacuated from their homes.
Several homes have been burned in some of the communities that were evacuated.
The area has been the scene of mass blazes in past years.
Chanoch Zoref, a JNF forester, said that “after 35 years in the mountain area, this is the second-largest fire I have seen here, the strong wind created a storm of fire, and the flames reached many tens of meters. The intensity of the fire and the speed of the spread of the fire, I do not remember such sights.”
Arab terrorists have previously used arson as a form of terrorism.
Fire Commissioner Dedi Simchi stated that “the mounting suspicion is that the source of the fire was man-made, but it is not known whether it was intentional or accidental. The investigation will continue.”
However, Moti Boker, secretary of the local committee of Moshav Beit Meir, which was in the epicenter of the fires, told IDF Radio that “for me, there is no doubt that it was an arson, I left the house and saw two fire centers about 2 km away that broke out at the same time.”