Lebanese struggle to put out wildfires sparked by Israeli strikes

Xinhua
4 Min Read

Farmers and civil defence units in south Lebanon were struggling on Sunday to contain the massive wildfire ignited by the shower of Israeli flares against Hezbollah targets that fell on farmlands and villages.

Thick smoke filled the air along the hilly Lebanese-Israeli border after a day of intensive exchange of fire between the Lebanese military group and the Israeli army.

On Saturday, flares and shells were launched in “unprecedented” numbers and intensity from the Israeli side, causing big bushfires and incurring huge losses on farmlands and livestock, Lebanese Civil Defense sources in southern Lebanon told Xinhua.

“The fires covered large areas extending from Naqoura in the west to the Shebaa Heights in the east, for a distance of about 100 km and a depth of 4 km north of the borderline,” said the sources.

On Saturday, a rescue team formed by the civil defence, the Lebanese army and the United Nations Interim Force In Lebanon took under control a large fire in the southeast village of Mays al-Jabal.

“While putting out the fire, several mines that the Israeli army had planted along the border line exploded,” the sources said.

Rabih Issa, a local Civil Defense commissioner, said their crew protected hundreds of homes overnight in four southeast villages. Still, he worried that the wildfires could spread to other areas anytime.

“Strong northern winds, hot weather, and drought are major obstacles to firefighting efforts, And we also face the Israeli army’s indiscriminate bombing,” he noted.

Lebanese official National News Agency on Saturday accused Israel of using incendiary phosphorus shells in Saturday’s artillery bombardment on the outskirts of the town of Alma al-Shaab, causing fires in the forest that spread to nearby homes.

Lebanese Agriculture Minister Abbas Hajj Hassan told Xinhua that they will “take samples of the soil bombarded with white phosphorus to scientifically assess the extent of its impact on the agricultural sector.”

According to the Lebanese Agriculture Ministry’s estimate by March 3, over 803 fires were reported since the ongoing conflict broke out along the border region on Oct. 8, 2023, in which around 55 border towns and villages have been affected.

It said the area of completely burned lands exceeded more than 2,150 dunams (215 hectares), the area of affected lands — forest and agricultural — was 6,000, and more than 55,000 old olive trees were burned.

In the past week, the Israeli side of the border area also witnessed erupts of fire after Hezbollah attacks.

The Israeli police said a large fire breaking out in northern Israel Monday night consumed some 4,000 dunams (400 hectares) in the northern region, attributing the blazes to rocket fire from southern Lebanon.

The private newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth reported another fire in the Israeli town of Metula on Thursday due to an anti-tank rocket fired from southern Lebanon.

 

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