Israel– Israel Police suspect Palestinian arsonists may be responsible for a wave of fires that have burned more than a thousand dunams (247 acres) of Jerusalem forest in three separate incidents this past week.
Authorities discovered the remains of a number of Molotov cocktails at the location firefighters determined Saturdays blaze started, according to a report in the Hebrew-language Ynet.
The incendiary weapons were found adjacent to the security fence separating the small Palestinian village of Bidu from the Israeli kibbutz of Maale Hahamisha and the nearby Jerusalem suburb of Har Adar.
On Saturday, eyewitnesses reported seeing Molotov cocktails being hurled into the forested area, and nearby residents said they saw suspicious persons about, according to the report.
Seventeen firefighting teams and four aircraft fought for several hours on Saturday afternoon to bring the fire under control.
In addition to Saturday, firefighters worked around the clock to put out fires that burned in forests northwest of Jerusalem on Sunday and Thursday of last week.
The commander of the Beit Shemesh fire department told Ynet the last six days have been extremely difficult for his team.
On Sunday, it was 105 dunams, on Thursday it was 850, and today another 40 dunams went up in smoke, Reuven Yitzhak told the website. Our firefighters are exhausted, he said.
Yitzhak said the evidence and numerous eyewitness testimonies strengthened suspicions that Palestinians deliberately set the Jerusalem forest ablaze three times in the last five days.
On Thursday, we found Molotov cocktail remains at the exact location the fire started. Today, is no different from Thursday or Sunday, he said.
Yitzhak said there has been a sharp rise in similar incidents in the last year.
There were no immediate reports of major damage or injuries from any of the fires. The Jerusalem district police have opened an investigation, but have yet to make any arrests.