Satellite Images Show Arsonists Likely Behind Yerushalayim-Area Fires

YERUSHALAYIM -
View of burnt trees following a major fire which broke out in the Yerushalayim mountains, Wednesday. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

The massive wildfire that raged near Yerushalayim for over two days, becoming one of the biggest blazes recorded in recent years, was apparently the result of arson, new satellite images reveal.

According to the satellite imagery provided to Yediot by the NASA space agency, the fire started on Sunday at 3 p.m., at unconnected and far away locations, all at the same time.

According to Amitai Dan, an information security researcher and intelligence analyst, the distance between each of the focal points is about four kilometers (2.4 miles). They are located near the local authorities of Beit Meir, Shoeva, Ramat Raziel and Givat Ye’arim – all of which were heavily affected by the fires.

Even before receiving the satellite images, Fire and Rescue Authority and the Yerushalayim police set up a special joint team to investigate the source of the fire.

The two bodies have suspected from the start that causes for the blaze were manmade, although it was unclear if it was negligence or deliberate arson.

According to the investigative team, one of the focal points, located near Beit Meir, is an area full of brush and thorns and regular tourists are unlikely to pass through it. The police hopes to use triangulation technology to locate any smartphones that were in the area during the onset of the fire.

On Tuesday, Fire and Rescue Authority Commissioner Dedi Simchi announced that the Yerushalayim-area wildfire was finally contained after an unrelenting 52-hour battle, consisting of no less than 1,500 firefighters and 20 water bombers.

The fire forced the evacuation of no less then 10 communities in the area around the capital, as well as a school and a hospital.

According to the Nature and Parks Authority, the fire consumed over 6,000 acres of land, and killed over 10,000  animals who were unable to flee the massive blaze.

Yerushalayim District Fire Chief Nissim Twito assessed that it would take decades to recover from the extensive damage caused to the area’s ecological system.

“These sights are hard to watch. I’ve seen how Yerushalayim district’s green lung turns black within the flames,” Twito said. “One does not have to be a great botanist to understand that it will take decades to restore what has been lost.”