JNF to Dedicate NIS 100M to Restoring Southern Forests

YERUSHALAYIM -
gaza border
A fire in a wheat field caused by kites flown by Palestinians, near Israel’s border with the Gaza Strip. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Fires resulting from terror balloons and kites lobbed at Israeli targets have consumed nearly 12,000 dunams of farms and forests since Gaza Arabs first utilized the tactic last March, the Jewish National Fund said Tuesday. The JNF released data on the total devastation caused by the fires, which are still ongoing – and in some ways are worse than ever. According to firefighters, a blaze that broke out on Sunday, at Nachal Habesor, was the worst single fire so far, consuming hundreds of dunams of forest land and requiring dozens of firefighters to bring it under control.

As of Tuesday – when three more fires were recorded – there have been 1,053 fires started as the result of terror kites and balloons sent to Israel, with flammable material attached. 452 fires were started in the Be’eri Forest, where 3,616 dunams of land have been consumed. In the Kissufim Forest, 353 fires have destroyed 5,202 dunams of land. Fires have also destroyed hundreds of dunams in the Shokeda, Nachal Hanoun, and Nachal Habesor forests.

As a result of the fires, the JNF announced that it was dedicating NIS 100 million to reclaim the lands that have been destroyed. The money will go to replanting forests that had been planted decades ago, also with JNF money, mostly raised by donations from Jewish communities abroad.

Earlier this week, residents of the Kerem Shalom area in the Gaza border region told Channel 20 that because of the pollution due to fires and the ongoing IDF activities against Gaza rioters, entailing the use of tear gas and other pollutants to break up riots, many are planning to leave their homes. Residents interviewed by the news organization said that it had gotten to the point that they were unable to leave their homes because of the heavy pollution in the area. Many have also reported that they have begun suffering from lung disease and other respiratory ailments.

As a result of the report, officials of the Environment Ministry arrived in the area last week to conduct air pollution tests. The tests determined that the pollution levels in the area were far higher than the permissible level. According to Channel 20, the officials recommended that residents remain in their homes with the windows and doors closed.