The garbage fire near Sha'ar Binyamin
The garbage fire near Sha'ar BinyaminIsrael Police

Near the towns of Kochav Yaakov and Migron in the Binyamin region, a garbage fire first lit half a year ago has caused the Sha’ar Binyamin industrial zone to be largely abandoned due to pollution. The government invested millions of shekels in extinguishing the fire, which took a total of a week of firefighting efforts.

The Binyamin Regional Council has warned that Palestinian criminals are once again dumping waste at the site. Workers from the real estate department of the Council filmed the criminals and the vehicle they are using as part of an appeal to the Civil Administration, which has so far not prevented further dumping.

The Regional Council stated that as of now, the Civil Administration is not taking sufficient action, and expressed serious concern that the fire will be reignited and the hazard will return in the summer. “We are closely following the abandonment of this area, documenting the trucks, and reporting to the Civil Administration, but no effective action has been taken,” said Yehuda Amrani, the Council spokesman. “This is an industrial system with extensive funding and connections to the Palestinian Authority and its staff. Dumping trash on this site saves them enormous sums and the state is not taking enforcement action against it, and so is encouraging the hazard. We have asked for enforcement authority over that area, but have not been granted that either.”

During the fire last August, the Environmental Protection Ministry and Health Ministry produced a joint recommendation that the area be evacuated due to excessive air pollution. At the time, criminals at the site continue to burn waste despite repeated appeals to the Civil Administration, which is responsible for preventing such a hazard and penalizing those responsible for it.

Einat Gizbari, a resident of the town of Adam, stated: “Not a year has gone by since the fire that made us evacuate our town for three days because of excessive pollution in 2023, and we are already in danger of a similar pollution disaster. The time has come for the government of Israel to seriously rebuke the Civil Administration and understand that this is a fight for our lives.” Eyal Erez, another resident of Adam, added: “We are at war with our enemy, only instead of rockets we are being directly targeted with polluting, carcinogenic smoke. It is especially noticeable in a mountainous and elevated region like this, where the air quality is particularly good, that we are now breathing pollution and poison.”

Binyamin governor Yisrael Ganz commented: “This is an environmental and health failure of extreme proportions, and a mark of shame for the state. We warned, documented, photographed, collected names and businesses of those responsible, but the state and the Civil Administration simply continue to allow this business to flourish. This enormous hazard continues to repeat itself and pollute the air and our lungs, despite our sounding every alarm bell possible. The government must stop being afraid of the Palestinian Authority and its criminals and instead rule this area.”

The Coordinatior of Government Activities in the Territories stated in response: “The Civil Administration sees great importance in preventing environmental hazards in Judea and Samaria, and invests significant resources and continual efforts for that purpose. Regarding the garbage fire in the area, we will note that a unit led by an officer of the environmental protection staff of the Civil Administration carries out extensive operations to extinguish such fires from the moment they are lit, including extinguishing the fires with trucks full of dirt, moving firefighting equipment to the area, and more.”

“Additionally, the unit operates a another unit called ‘David’, which is responsible for enforcing environmental regulations at checkpoints and preventing illegal transfer of waste in Judea and Samaria. As a result, over 2023, 170 trucks hauling waste illegally in that area were seized.”