Police arrested two Palestinians suspects from the village of Katanna in connection with the large fire that raced through the wadis near Jerusalem two weeks ago.

Firefighters and police immediately suspected that the part of the fire that started near Ma’aleh Hahamisha was the result of arson.

During the course of the investigation, the two suspects, age 17 and 19, admitted to setting the Ma’aleh Hahamisha fire and also confessed to being involved in 10 other security incidents including other fires and stone-throwing. Police do not believe the suspects, who have a criminal history, are associated with any known terror group.

Ch.-Supt. Gilad Bahat, commander of the Harel police station, said the suspects “carried out the attacks with the intent of destroying property and harming Israel.”

Police believe the suspects threw a bottle with some kind of flammable material near Ma’aleh Hahamisha, which started the fire. Additional fires that broke out the same day at the entrance to Jerusalem and near Mevaseret Zion are not believed to be connected to this incident and could have been the result of negligence.

The fires consumed a total of 10 hectares (25 acres) and closed Highway 1 for hours.

Katanna is an Arab village in the Palestinian territories very close to Ma’aleh Hahamisha, though the West Bank security barrier runs between the two towns.

The two suspects were brought to the Ofer military court and their detention was extended for eight days.

Firefighters have dealt with a wave of arson over the past months in Jerusalem. In May and June, there were 1,285 incidents of fire in fields and open areas around Jerusalem. In an average year, there are approximately 4,000 fires in open areas.

Firefighters determined that 70 percent of the fires in open areas were arson. In the past few weeks, 14 people – both Jewish and Arab – were arrested in connection with setting fires in fields and wadis around Jerusalem.

Jerusalem Fire and Rescue Services spokesman Asaf Abras said it was too soon to tell if the arrests had any affect on the arson, and noted that over the weekend there were two large fires, in Emek HaArazim and Har Gilo.

Abras said that the fires in the southern part of the city, including a concentration around the Arnona area, are most likely pranks done by bored teenagers, and those could possibly increase since children started their summer holiday. The fires in the north and east of the city, such as the one at Ma’aleh Hahamisha and a fire at the Oferit military base near Hebrew University, are more politically motivated as an attempt to harm Israel, he explained.

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