More teens and yeshiva head questioned about J'lem fire

Police suspect ‘negligence’ in start of blaze which claimed more than 1,000 dunams.

Gamla fire 311 (photo credit: Osnat Eitan)
Gamla fire 311
(photo credit: Osnat Eitan)
Jerusalem Police on Monday announced they had detained an additional four suspects in connection with Sunday’s massive forest fire near Hadassah-University Hospital, Ein Kerem, which claimed more than 1,000 dunams (250 acres) of forest land and damaged some 23 vehicles in a nearby parking lot.
Among those arrested on Monday were three 15-year-olds from a group of yeshiva students that had been hiking in the area. On Sunday police had detained several other members of the group.
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A police spokesman added that the yeshiva head had also been questioned on Monday. By early evening, all of those who had been in custody were released on bail, the spokesman said.
The yeshiva students were questioned over their possible role in starting the fire by “negligence,” although police offered few additional details.
Sunday’s fire, which started around 1:30 p.m. and quickly spread out of control, scorched an entire patch of the Aminadav Forest between the Hadassah campus and the nearby communities of Ora, Even Sapir and Aminadav.
According to a spokeswoman from the Jewish National Fund, a second fire was ignited in the same area around 3:30 p.m., hampering firefighters’ efforts to quash the blaze.
As the flames drew closer to the hillside communities, sections of Ora and Aminadav were evacuated with the help of police, as scores of firefighters from both area localities and the JNF battled the blaze.
Across the valley, the flames drew dangerously close to the hospital, prompting authorities to weigh a potential evacuation, though this proved unnecessary.
With the help of two airborne firefighting units, which doused the flames from above, the fire spreading toward the hospital was brought under control at about 4 p.m.
It would be another two hours before the flames approaching Ora and Aminadav were similarly subdued, but by 6 p.m., firefighters had begun to contain the blaze, and area residents were allowed to begin returning home.
On Sunday night, police announced that an initial investigation had pointed to the group of yeshiva students, who police said had started the fire through “negligence” and then left the scene after the flames spread out of control.
It remained unclear on Monday evening if those who had been detained for questioning would be charged, and if so, what they were to be charged with.