Forest Fire Under Control Near Beit Shemesh

On Friday, there was a blaze ongoing in a park near Beit Shemesh in the Judean Hills and it took more than a dozen teams of firefighters to bring it under control, with mounting evidence of arson being seen. Four planes and nineteen firefighting teams had been relentlessly working since Thursday afternoon for countering the fires that appear to have erupted in almost seven different locations inside the park, named Begin Park. There were only two blaze sites that were still ongoing by Friday morning, but they hadn’t come under control. According to a spokesperson of the Fire and Rescue Services in Israel, they were hoping to put out the fires before the winds pick up, which was expected to happen later in the day.

Nissim Toito, the Jerusalem district chief said that their goal this morning was to use the window of opportunity and do the firefighting work against the fire still blazing to ensure it wouldn’t be intensified by the winds that are expected to strengthen in the afternoon. The police said that the remaining blazes had also been brought under control by Friday afternoon. According to authorities, residential areas did not have to worry about any immediate danger. 

The multiple sites of fire had given rise to the suspicion that the blazes had been intentionally set and an arrest was made on Thursday in relation to it. The investigation led to a woman in her 30s, who was then arrested due to suspicion of arson. The commander of the fire station in Beit Shemesh also found further evidence of attempted arson on Friday morning. The fire services released an image, which showed a patch of scorched land and there is a face mask that is hanging from the tree brand directly above it. The seven different sites of the fire were at a distance of dozens of meter from each other. 

According to fire officials, the fires had been set in an area that’s difficult to reach, which adds weight to the testimony of the individual who had first reported the fire. As per the unidentified caller, they had seen an individual in an off-road vehicle carrying a torch and had been lighting areas that were near the driving route. On Thursday night, police scanned the area and located a resident woman around 30 years old who belonged to the West Bank area of Hashmonaim. Several hours earlier, she was reported as a missing person. 

She was referred to as an ‘at-risk individual’, but no details were shared. The police questioned the woman and collected evidence from the sight of the fires. She was then arrested on suspicion of deliberately starting the fires. Her remand was extended by a total of six days by a court on Friday. Further investigation would obviously be done to determine if she really is the culprit before taking things forward. This would involve collecting further evidence from the scene of the fires and questioning the woman about her role in it. 

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