Daily Israel Report

Islamist Leader Arrested for Forest Fire Arson

Sheikh Raed Salah of the Islamic Movement is suspected of setting fire to a forest in southern Israel, just weeks after deadly Carmel blaze.
By Maayana Miskin
First Publish: 2/22/2011, 5:49 PM / Last Update: 2/22/2011, 6:15 PM

Flash 90

The leader of a major Muslim movement in Israel is suspected of setting fire to a forest less than three months after the worst fire in modern Israeli history. Sheikh Ra'ad Salah, head of the northern branch of the Islamic Movement, has been arrested in connection to an arson attack in southern Israel.

Salah allegedly set fire to a Eucalyptus forest in southern Israel. The attack was allegedly in protest of a Jewish National Fund project in the area.

The Jewish National Fund is working to forest parts of the Negev, a plan opposed by some Bedouin residents of the region. Residents of the illegal town of El-Araqib in particular have condemned the project out of concern that it will use land that they hope to use in the future to house Arabs “returning” to Israel from the rest of the Arab world.

Salah was arrested while driving on Highway 1, between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv,, and was subsequently questioned by officers in the police's minority affairs bureau.

He was released from jail just two months ago after serving five months for attacking a police officer. Upon release he told his supporters, “Someday we will celebrate the end of the Israel occupation of Jerusalem and Al-Aksa [the Temple Mount – ed.]. We will continue with all our activities, without fear, until we reach that goal.”

The arson attempt in the south came just weeks after the Carmel fire, a massive forest fire in northern Israel that killed 44 people. During the Carmel fire an Arab arson offensive led to firefighters being called away from the main blaze to battle smaller fires.

Despite the offensive, the Knesset voted down a bill to impose a mandatory minimum sentence on arsonists.