ISRAEL – Three residents of Dir Abu Mashal, near Ramallah, face multiple arson charges for setting fire that nearly destroyed the Judea and Samaria community of Halamish, causing $6.7 million in damages Indictment makes no mention of a nationalistic motive.
Israel Hayom Staff
Three Palestinians were indicted Sunday for allegedly starting a fire that nearly destroyed the Judea and Samaria community of Halamish, southwest of Ramallah.
According to a Walla news report, Salem Ataman, Salem Zahran Muatasem Mahmoud Yousef Zahran and Ahed Isa Yousef Zahran, all in their 20s and residents of Dir Abu Mashal, near Ramallah, were indicted in the Judea Military Court on multiple counts of arson, malicious property damage, disturbing the peace, and inflicting damage to a natural reserve. The indictment makes no mention of a nationalistic motive to their crimes.
Several massive wildfires raged in Israel for eight days in mid-November, prompting the evacuation of some 75,000 people nationwide, and destroying nearly 5,000 acres of forest.
The Halamish blaze destroyed 17 homes and damaged dozens of others, as well as the surrounding woodlands and property. In total, 169 homes sustained damaged as a result of the flames. According to the indictment, the fire inflicted damage to the tune of 25 million shekels ($6.7 million).
At the time of the alleged arson, Israel was beset by extremely dry weather and heavy winds, which fanned the flames that erupted across the country and quickly turned the Halamish fire into a destructive blaze.
According to the indictment, the three suspects met in their village on Nov. 25 and drove to the West Bank village of Aboud to buy alcohol. Having finished their drinks, the suspects traveled to Halamish “to set the adjacent thicket on fire, with the intent of sparking a fire in the settlement.”
The three are believed to have arrived at the scene of the crime at around 10:15 p.m. The driver remained in the car, while the two other suspects are said to have used cigarette lighters to light toilet paper on fire, which caused the thicket outside the settlement to burn. The indictment specifically states that the three suspects set the fire “with the intent to cause damage.”