Incendiary kites from Gaza cause 4 fires in Israel Saturday
12 firefighting teams and 4 air tankers battle blaze in Karmia Nature Reserve, trying to stop it from spreading to Netiv HaAsara; an estimated 2,000-3,000 dunams already damaged; earlier, incendiary kites caused fires near Kibbutz Kissufim and near Nir Am.
According to initial estimates, between 2,000-3,000 dunams of the reserve and its surrounding area were damaged in the fire.
The topographical conditions in the nature reserve, which is located in the Hof Ashkelon Regional Council, combined with the strong winds blowing in the area, are making it very difficult for firefighting forces to gain control of the flames.
Thick smoke is covering the area, and there is concern the blaze might spread to the greenhouses of Netiv HaAsara.
Firefighters and farmers were also fighting Saturday evening to put out a fire that broke out in a wheat field near the Sapir College in Sderot.
On Saturday morning, an incendiary kite started a conflagration in the forest near Kibbutz Kissufim. Firefighting forces were able to gain control of the flames.
Shortly after that, a brush fire broke out near Kibbutz Nir Am, where the flames came close to the kibbutz's fence. Firefighters were able to stop it from reaching the community at the last moment.
In recent weeks, Palestinians have been flying incendiary across the border, which have been causing numerous fires on the Israeli side. On Friday, incendiary kites caused blazes in the Kibbutz Miflasim and Kibbutz Kissufim. No one was hurt, and firefighters were able to gain control of the fires.
Not merely farmers and agricultural land were targeted, however, as nature reserves and forests went up in flames as well. According to Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael (KKL) data, more than 2,100 dunam (2.1 square kilometers) of woodland were torched, mostly in the Be'eri and Kissufim forests near the Gaza border.
Not only the region's flora was hit hard, as the native fauna has also suffered. Torched wheat fields can no longer be used as birthing grounds for the area's gazelle population, while the reptilian populace of natural sites such as Be'eri Forest and the Besor Stream will take long to recover.
Southern district ecologists carried an initial survey of the region to attempt to assess damages, but the Nature and Parks Authority's experts realize full well the enormity of the disaster will only be grasped—and repaired—later.
One official said that much of the region's vegetation was now gone, with many portions not recovering until the next rains. Animal habitats, meanwhile, have shrunk.
"The rate of fires is a nearly daily basis," the official added. "We have fires here and there normally, but the last one in the Besor Stream ate away 3,000 dunam (3 square kilometers) of the reserve. The damage is accumulating."
"That means that the Besor Stream land is finished until the next rainy season, and grazing grounds are diminishing. This year it's a whole new playing field. It's still hard to say what its effects on nature will be. If it continues into the summer, we'll be in rough shape," the nature official feared.