Israel’s Judea and Samaria region Fire and Rescue Department says a rash of fires that destroyed trees in several Jewish communities in Gush Etzion appear to have been deliberately set.
A spokesperson for the department said Wednesday that fires near the “Ochef Ha’Muktar” school in Kibbutz Kfar Etzion were believed to have been lit by arsonists.
The fires were set in a sparsely wooded area close to the region’s famous cherry orchards.
“Even before arriving at the scene, we detected a lot of smoke from the Kfar Etzion area,” said Fire Team Commander Sergeant Yosef Elazar.
“We identified a number of fires scattered in the area… [and] immediately started operations to contain the fire. At the moment we have several teams working to contain the incident.”
A fire investigator was sent to the scene.
Judea Regional Station Commander and Deputy Chief Tamir Erez told the TPS news outlet that arson is suspected in Wednesday’s fire — which took place in the same area as one set last week.
That fire was also set in the Kfar Etzion cherry orchard. In addition, arson terrorists set a blaze at the Dor Farm in the Jordan Valley on Yom Kippur, investigators said.
Last month firefighters were forced to battle a wildfire near the Jewish community of Geva’ot in Gush Etzion that was more than a kilometer wide – also the result of arson terror, officials said.
This past summer, Arab arsonists set fire to cherry orchards near the Ha’Tamar Etzion military base in Gush Etzion. Another was set near Geva’ot, and three were set in one day, all of them in the area of Kfar Etzion.
The flames – caused by burning tires that were thrown into the wooded areas — caused a great deal of damage to the land.
“The fires are terrorism in every way,” The Gush Etzion Regional Council said in a statement at the time.
“We expect the political echelon to instruct the IDF to fight the terrorism of arson that harms the settlement. It is not possible that such an event will repeat itself in a short time. We trust the IDF to know how to fight arson terrorism as well.”
TPS contributed to this report.