Hezbollah Rocket Attacks Devastate Israeli Nature Reserves

By Yoni Weiss

A firefighting plane tries to extinguish a large fire at the Semech stream near Moshav Natur, southern Golan Heights, on Friday. (Michael Giladi/Flash90)

Hezbollah’s recent rocket attacks have caused significant destruction to Israel’s nature reserves, with vast areas of forest and wildlife habitat being destroyed.

“I haven’t slept in three days. The rockets on Thursday were mainly in the Upper Galilee and the Golan Heights. They caused many fires, spreading rapidly. Our resource distribution is limited. We can’t respond to everything. We focus on fires we decide need attention, and we invest all our effort there,” said Rami Zaretski of the Jewish National Fund (JNF) to Yediot.

On Thursday, Hezbollah launched a retaliatory strike against Israel following the assassination of Muhammad Neamah Nasser, a senior figure in the terror organization. About 250 rockets and mortars were fired across northern Israel, causing numerous fires. The barrage continued into Friday and Shabbos, leading to further destruction.

Since the beginning of the war, around 11,000 acres have burned in the Upper Galilee, with 1,200 acres scorched over the past weekend alone. In the Golan Heights, approximately 9,500 acres have been destroyed.

“From Thursday morning, as the rocket and mortar attacks began in the north, we had to deal with a non-stop number of fires in the Golan Heights, Hula Valley, and Upper Galilee,” described Yigal Moyal, a senior official in the KKL’s northern region.

The fires in the Upper Galilee were mainly concentrated in the Biriya Forest. “The fires continued into the night, and we finally got control on Friday,” said Moyal. “Fires have a decisive impact on ecological systems. Fire is a natural process, and the natural world can cope with it when it reaches temperatures of 200–300 degrees. But a fire of such a large scope, in multiple focal points, and due to environmental conditions reaching temperatures of over 600–700 degrees, is catastrophic for that ecosystem. It also affects animals. Mammals somehow escape from fires, but for slow-moving reptiles like tortoises, snakes, and lizards, their ability to escape is limited.”

Many northern nature reserves, including Nachal Dishon, Nachal Dalton, and Chatzor Stream, were closed, and some were at risk of total destruction. The fires not only impact Israel’s ecological assets but also its economic interests, damaging the Israel Nature and Parks Authority by destroying nature reserves. For example, the Gamla Reserve generates NIS 1.6 million annually, while the Hula Valley Reserve generates about NIS 1.8 million. The impact is felt both in the north and the south. For instance, Eshkol Park generated about NIS 2.8 million in 2022.

The extent of the damage in the north and the funds needed for restoration are still unknown. In the south, authorities requested approximately NIS 71.6 million for nature reserves’ restoration. For example, restoring the Be’eri Reserve, covering an area of 120 acres, is estimated at about NIS 4.7 million.

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