Two teens, 17 and 18, from the Palestinian village of Kfar Katna, are suspected of setting a large wildfire near Kibbutz Ma'aleh Hahamisha some two weeks ago. According to police, the two admitted to the act when questioned, as well as to setting other fires. The Ofer Military Court has remanded them for eight days.
The two suspects were arrested by Jerusalem District Police and Border Police troops who entered the village and took them into custody. Both have prior records of disturbing the peace.
- Wild fire burns down 40 dunams near Jerusalem
Harel Police Commander Chief Superintendent Gilad Bahat who investigated the fire, said that "As far as we know, the motive was nationalist and intended to cause damage. However, the investigation isn't over."
The Ma'aleh Hahamisha fire burned up oer 15 acres (Photo: Moshe Ben-Hamo)
Police also said that the distance between the village and the kibbutz is not great, and that Molotov cocktails and other objects could be throw from one to the other.
The Ma'aleh Hachamisha fire broke out on June 26 and destroyed more than 15 acres of natural forest and brush, as well as forcing the kibbutz pool to be evacuated. Nine firefighting crews and two aircraft were needed to gain control of the blaze, which burned at the same time as a fire near Motza, which closed Highway 1, but was apparently caused by negligence rather than arson.
Even as firefighters battled the flames, Fire and Rescue Services Commissioner Shahar Ayalon said that the incident was the result of arson. "No fire starts spontaneously," he said. "It's either (the result of) negligence or set on purpose."
A day after the fire, Beit Shemesh Fire Chief Eli Peretz said that "lighter has been thrown over the security fence that stretches along Ma'aleh Hahamisha."
Peretz explained that the firefighters who arrived on the scene discovered a number of fires that were burning without any connection to each other, which indicated arson.