Massive fires have torn through the countryside in the Mateh Binyamin region, and local residents suspect they are the handiwork of Palestinian terrorists.
By Ebin Sandler, United with Israel
“My phone is on 24-7 and we’ve been getting one or two calls every day, the past few weeks,” says Yishai Ben Mordechai, a volunteer firefighter in Kochav Hashachar, a Jewish community that overlooks the Jordan Valley in Samaria.
“Two weeks ago, there were 12 concurrent arson fires between our town and Shiloh,” a nearby community of around 4,400 Israelis that was also home to the Mishkan (Tabernacle) during biblical times, he told United with Israel.
“Last Saturday night, there were two massive fires, one on the kuba,” a large hill on the outskirts of town, “and another down the wadi,” which is the valley separating Kochav Hashachar from the neighboring town of Rimonim.
Indeed, volunteer fire departments in this area of Samaria, called Mateh Binyamin, have been extremely busy this week, battling a series of blazes that many residents believe were set deliberately by Palestinian terrorists seeking to harm Israelis physically and economically.
“It is definitely arson,” says Ben Mordechai. “These fires are always right near a Jewish town. There has been a whole bunch of them between here and Rimonim, at least four or five in the last month.”
‘Right Up to the Houses’
On Wednesday night, a huge fire tore through the brush on the outskirts of Kochav Hashachar and the satellite community of Ma’aleh Shlomo, menacing homes and threatening livestock.
“The last fire reached up to the houses in Ma’aleh Shlomo,” Ben Mordechai explains. “The homeowners put out the fire, right at their doors. But it continued, moving southeast toward the kuba, away from people, but still endangering the community.”
“It was terrible. Mothers were there with their children. Everyone pitched in, putting out the fire.”
According to a report by Arutz 7, similar fires have been sparked multiple times each week for around two months, with the culprits evading law enforcement and the IDF.
The aftermath can be seen on the roadsides in the area, with charred brush lining Route 458 between Kochav Hashachar and Shiloh
On Wednesday night, firefighters were joined by local youth, who spent several hours putting out fires between Kochav Hashachar and Rimonim.
‘Fires Don’t Just Start on Their Own’
Arson terror has remained a favored tactic among Palestinian terrorists in Judea and Samaria and the Gaza Strip.
“I spoke to a fire investigator and he said he thought it was arson,” says Ben Mordechai. “Everyone is sure it is. Fires don’t ‘just start’ on their own. There’s no spontaneous combustion going on out here.”
Near southern Israel, the Hamas terror group launched a massive wave of sustained arson attacks in 2018, using incendiary devices attached to balloons, kites and drones launched from Gaza to start fires in and near Jewish communities within Israel.
Hamas-orchestrated cells caused millions of dollars of damage to Israeli fields, killing wildlife and destroying nature preserves and other habitats.
In Judea and Samaria, Palestinian arson terror primarily targets agriculture and livestock.
“It’s not connected to sovereignty,” posits Ben Mordechai, referring to the Israeli government’s plan to officially extend Israeli sovereignty over Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria. “These fires happen every summer. As soon as the grass is dry, around Passover, they’re out there doing this.”
“The only way these fires will be stopped is if the culprits are caught,” concluded Ben Mordechai.
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