Knesset to examine IDF’s Gamla fire probe

IDF believed to have inadvertently started wildfires.

Gamla fire 311 (photo credit: Osnat Eitan)
Gamla fire 311
(photo credit: Osnat Eitan)
MK Otniel Schneller (Kadima), chairman of the Subcommittee for IDF Oversight, announced over the weekend that the IDF probe into the massive May wildfire at the Gamla Nature Reserve must be turned over to the Knesset.
In light of repeated incidents in which IDF forces are believed to have inadvertently started wildfires, Schneller said he intends to probe the IDF’s internal investigations in order to understand how such incidents are “repeated so many times over.
“I intend to turn to Defense Minister Ehud Barak so he can instruct the IDF to hand over the IDF’s probes into the recent fires,” Schneller said late Thursday.
“However necessary IDF activities may be, they cannot be allowed to cause damage to Israel’s natural treasures.”
Schneller specifically cited the May 27 blaze that destroyed thousands of dunams of the popular Golan Heights nature reserve and Roman-era historical site.
Seven teams of firefighters and four fire-fighting airplanes joined dozens of volunteers and employees from the Israel Parks Authority, Jewish National Fund, Golan Regional Council and two IDF platoons in trying to combat the fire, believed to have been started during an IDF exercise at a nearby military facility.
In the wake of the fire, the IDF set up a special military probe, which recently delivered its conclusions.
It reportedly cited a systemic lack of fire-fighting equipment and called for the establishment of an IDF firefighting team tasked with accompanying training exercises, as well as for strengthening organizational understanding of fire prevention.
The Gamla fire, which forced the evacuation of numerous rare raptors, caused extensive damage to the site’s tourist facilities.
The footpath to the Gamla waterfall was reopened only 10 days ago on account of the damage.
Israel Parks Authority representatives said that since the fire, thousands of visitors had come to the reserve after Parks Authority director-general Eli Amitai decided to open the park free of charge in the weeks following the fire.