Israel –– Twelve Israel Defense Forces soldiers from the Home Front Command were lightly injured and one suffered moderate injuries from smoke inhalation during a brush fire that broke out on Sunday near the Ofrit Base on Jerusalem’s Mount Scopus.
Police suspect Palestinian youths set the fire alight by throwing firecrackers at the base. The firecrackers fell into a thicket around the base’s perimeter fence and – given Sunday’s heat in Jerusalem, where temperatures peaked at 38 degrees Celsius – a fire started almost immediately.
Six firefighting teams were called to the site and, working with the base’s duty squad, they managed to bring the fire under control in a relatively short time.
The injured were brought by ambulance to various Jerusalem hospitals.
This was the latest of several brush fires that have been occuring in and around Jerusalem over the past two weeks. According to Jerusalem’s Fire and Rescue Service, since the beginning of the month there have been 284 fires in brush and open areas alone.
“I assume if we would include all the incidents in the forests or orchards the number would be even higher,” said Asaf Abras of the Jerusalem Fire and Rescue Service.
He said that, unlike Sunday’s fire, most of the blazes have been in south Jerusalem near the triangle of the Arnona, Armon Hanatziv and Har Homa neighborhoods.
The most intensive day was last Thursday, when one numerous fires were reported within five hours.
“These events are happening one after the other and within a short distance of each other. This means there’s a good chance we’re talking about deliberate arson,” Abras said.
Last week two boys aged 13 and 14 were arrested on suspicion of causing at least some of the fires.