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Photos Raise Arson Suspicions in Gush Etzion Blaze

Dual fires erupted on two distinct sides of Route 367, witnesses reveal to Arutz Sheva - and were too close to be accidental.

Tova Dvorin ,

Firefighting plane
Firefighting plane
Ari Dudkevitch/Flash 90

Tens of firefighting crews battled a forest fire in Gush Etzion on Friday, which spread from the Gvaot community outward and saw dozens evacuated from their homes. 

On Sunday, witnesses driving along the road where the fire broke out revealed new photo evidence to Arutz Sheva which raises further suspicions that the "brushfire" was arson. 

Ariel residents Devorah and Zach Kessin were heading to the Gush Etzion winery along Route 367 Friday afternoon when they first spotted the flames. 367 runs just above Gvaot. 

"To the left of us, slightly above the road, we saw a brushfire that hadn't reached the highway yet," Devorah recounted Sunday.

Arson or brushfire? Devorah Kessin

"Then, we drove another 50 meters, and we saw a couple trees below the highway on fire." 

Another fire? Down the road on the other side Devorah Kessin

Brushfires should spread linearly, she explained. Two separate fires which occurred naturally should have been farther apart. Zach called the police while Devorah began immediately taking photos. 

"While we were there, a white pickup truck came along, stopped behind us (about 10 meters away) and when the guy got out of the truck, I saw it said בטחון (security - ed.) on the side," she said. "He was already on the phone." 

"I pointed to both locations," she continued. "Zach told the police that security was on the scene, he hung up, I got back into the car, and we left before they shut the road."

On Saturday night, the Kessins alerted the Ariel police station about what they had seen. 

"The police officer at the desk said that investigators were already treating it as arson," she noted, adding that while they did not take the photos they did thank them for their efforts. 

Forest fires regularly break out during the hot, dry summer months in Israel. But while many are either the results of hot weather or camping accidents, Arab extremists regularly make use of the conditions to deliberately start fires in an attempt to harm Jews and Jewish property in nearby communities, as well as in order to overwhelm firefighting forces.




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