Israeli authorities were on alert for new brush fires Tuesday, after munitions fired from Lebanon by Hezbollah the previous evening ignited several across northern Israel.

The Israel Fire and Rescue Service said that dozens of firefighting teams worked through the night along with teams from the Nature and Park Service, army, police and other agencies before gaining control over the largest fires in the morning, an AFP journalist reported.

“As of this time there are three active sites” near the border with Lebanon, the fire service posted on X Tuesday. An AFP journalist said firefighters were still handling smaller fires.

The blazes encroached on Kiryat Shmona, a town near the Lebanese border that has been largely evacuated in the face of near-daily exchanges of fire between the army and Hezbollah since Hamas’s October 7 attack on Israel triggered war in Gaza.

Extreme heat that has gripped the region in recent days has raised the risk of brush fires. The daily barrages of rockets and drone strikes have rained down incendiary material.

An AFP photographer in the northern town saw intense blazes engulfing parts of the border area.

On Sunday, a brush fire in the Israeli-annexed Golan Heights burned around 10 square kilometers (nearly four square miles) of land after a rocket fired from Lebanon struck near the town of Katzrin.

Lebanon’s state-run National News Agency also reported fires in Alma al-Shaab and Dhayra, two villages near the Israeli border. It said the fires were caused by “Israeli phosphorus incendiary shells”.

The Israeli army said it had deployed reinforcements to support firefighters overwhelmed by the scale of the blazes.

“Six… reservist soldiers were lightly injured as a result of smoke inhalation and transferred to a hospital to receive medical treatment,” the army said.

“The forces gained control over the locations of fire, and at this stage, no human life is at risk,” it added.

Officers of the army’s Northern Command had arrived in Kiryat Shmona during the night and the army was “conducting a situational assessment” in the sector.

The office of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said it was closely monitoring the fires.

In retaliation, the Israeli army announced it had carried out air strikes against what it said were Hezbollah targets in southern Lebanon.

NNA reported that Israeli incendiary shells had sparked a forest fire that was approaching houses in the southern village of Alma al-Shaab on Tuesday.

Source. Agence France Presse


Firefighters Continue to Battle Blazes in Israel’s North; Thousands of Acres Already Burned – Haaretz

Adi Hashmonai. Zafrir Rinat Haaretz

Jun 4, 2024

Rockets, drones and shrapnel started multiple fires on Monday that were spread quickly by strong winds in dry forest conditions. Firefighting teams are still attempting to put out blazes in Keren Naftali, which are part of a larger blaze raging across the five kilometers (3 miles) of Nir’s Cliff – from the city of Kiryat Shmona southwards to the Upper Galilee Regional Council.

Fires burn after Hezbollah rockets start fires in Kiryat Shmona, Tuesday.Credit: AFP

Over the past three days, more than 15,000 dunams (more than 3,700 acres) of land in the Galilee and Golan Heights have been damaged by fire. That’s similar in scope to the largest fires that have previously hit Israel, although this time the area involved was in several separate locations.

Following a series of sirens activated on Tuesday morning across multiple towns in the Upper Galilee, shrapnel from an interceptor launched at a suspicious aerial target ignited another fire in the Biriya Forest, near the city of Safed. An IDF reservist was moderately wounded in the incident.

A total of 18 crews from northern and central Israel have been fighting the fires. It has been a joint effort of volunteers, security squad members, teams from the Israel Nature and Parks Authority, the Jewish National Fund, the IDF and the police. In addition, four firefighting planes were used to douse the area with flame-retardant material.

“The Naftali Mountain Ridge has been almost completely burned,” Eli Hafuta, the director of the Upper Galilee region for the Jewish National Fund, told a conference at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev on Tuesday. “We have no access to a strip in a range of 3.5 kilometers [more than 2 miles] from the border and I have no idea what’s happening there. But I’m concerned that if the war continues, we would lose a large portion of the forests in the north since they’re adjacent to military facilities.”

Sixteen people are being treated for smoke inhalation, including seven soldiers and five members of Kiryat Shmona’s security squad, who were brought to the Ziv Medical Center in Safed.

Fire in northern Israel, that broke out following a Hezbollah barrage, on Monday.Credit: Israel’s Fire and Rescue Authority spokesperson | Northern District

In the Golan, a fire broke out on Monday near Katzrin and in the southern part of Nir’s Cliff, after an explosive drone fell in the area. Fires in the Upper Galilee were successfully extinguished near a number of kibbutzim, Yesod Ha’Ma’ala and Safed, and a fire near Amiad that spread overnight towards the town of Khal has now also been controlled. 

According to Boris Eisenberg, the chief of the Tiberias fire station, the fire has consumed some 1,000 acres of land. According to the estimates, together with fires in the Golan Heights, more than over 2,500 acres of forest and greenery were scorched, a third of which were part of nature reserves. 

The fires are also related to the conditions prevailing on the ground in recent weeks, which have brought hotter weather. Until the end of spring, vegetation was wet or damp and as a result, there were almost no fires. But summer weather has brought drier conditions, making areas fire-prone.

“Almost nothing happened between November and May,” Hafuta said. “Now we’ve run out of miracles.”

The quantity of combustible material is particularly great, according to one nature preservation professional, because “nature preservation in the north has been too successful,” as he put it.

He was referring to the fact that the Israel Nature and Parks Authority has managed to protect large areas of brushland but not to thin the vegetation, by turning it over for use as pastureland, for example. The brush has become particularly dense as a result, meaning that fires there spread more rapidly – and access by firefighting crews is more difficult.

According to information coming from the Lebanese side of the border, Israeli army weapon fire has also caused many fires there, but the vegetation in southern Lebanon has been subject to less protection and more animal grazing and trees there have been chopped down for firewood. As a result, there is less combustible vegetation across the border in Lebanon.

“The fire at Nir’s Cliff was reigned in thanks to the firefighting planes. The firefighters do not have access to the cliff due to the topographic conditions, so they tried to limit the fire from the first row of houses,” said Kiryat Shmona mayor Avichai Stern. 

An Israeli firefighting airplane drops flame retardant as fires burn following rockets launched from Lebanon into northern Israel, Tuesday.Credit: AFP

Minister Ben-Gvir and government officials are due to arrive here [in the north] and I will ask them to make conclusions, because unfortunately we will have a lot of this. You can’t access the cliff, but maybe we can install sprinklers or water cannons. Sprinklers were installed in Kibbutz Tzova, and they saved it from the fires in the area,” he said. 

The fire in the Biriya Forest near the northern Israeli city of Safed, on Tuesday.Credit: Safed municipality

The fires also caused damage to the communication and cellular lines on the northern border. Communications Minister Shlomo Karhi said that so far, the army has prevented the communications companies from repairing the damaged infrastructure, but now they will be allowed in. 

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin announced on Monday night that he conducted an evaluation briefing with the defense chiefs regarding the “developments in northern Israel,” and that he “received an update from the Israeli Fire and Rescue Authority on the firefighting efforts.”


Fires rage overnight across north after Hezbollah rocket and drone attacks – Times of Israel

June 3 2024

Most of the blazes that started Monday were brought under control, firefighting service says Tuesday morning; 11 treated for smoke inhalation, at least one home damaged by flames


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