Police arrested two Palestinians suspects from the village of Katanna in
connection with the large fire that raced through the wadis near Jerusalem two
Firefighters and police immediately suspected that the part of
the fire that started near Ma’aleh Hahamisha was the result of
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
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
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 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
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.