Israeli army pours accelerant on firefighters battling wildfire in Lebanon

Israeli army pours accelerant on firefighters battling wildfire in Lebanon
An official in Lebanon's civil defense told The New Arab that Israelis sprayed an accelerant on a wildfire as firefighters fought to extinguish the blaze.
3 min read
05 June, 2024
Tens of thousands of olive trees and over 1,500 hectares of land have been burned by Israeli strikes in Lebanon since October. [Getty]

Israeli forces sprayed accelerant on a wildfire in Dheira, south Lebanon as members of the Lebanese civil defence fought to extinguish it on Saturday, a civil defence official told The New Arab.

Videos of the blaze published by Lebanese outlet megaphone showed firefighters bracing themselves as a substance was sprayed from a hose from the Israeli side of the border wall, causing the fire to increase in size.

"The fire was started by Israeli white phosphorus. It happened as the firefighters had just about contained the fire, the Israelis put some sort of accelerant on top of it," Abdullah Derdghaya, station chief of the Tyre district civil defence, told TNA.

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Derdghaya added that on Monday night, Israel launched shells at firefighters as they combated a wildfire caused by white phosphorus in the border town of Marwahein.

"We had to leave because they were shelling around us to try to warn us off. We told UNIFIL that we were there and the Lebanese army was with us – but they don't respect our presence," Derdghaya said.

The incident occurred as cross-border clashes between Hezbollah and Israel sparked massive blazes in both north Israel and southern Lebanon. Israeli media said over 2,500 acres had been burned by wildfires caused by Hezbollah rockets over the weekend.

In Lebanon, Israeli use of white phosphorus has caused more than 134 forest fires over the last eight months.

More than 1,500 hectares of land have been burned since cross-border clashes between Hezbollah and Israel started in the wake of Hamas's 7 October attack.

The fires in north Israel have put pressure on the Israeli government to guarantee the security of northern residents – about 100,000 of whom have been displaced since October.

On Wednesday, Benjamin Netanyahu visited the northern city of Kiryat Shimona, the site of the weekend's forest fires and the city hardest hit by cross-border fighting.

He warned that Israel was prepared with an "extremely powerful" response to Hezbollah attacks.

"Anyone who thinks that they can harm us, and we will sit on our hands, is sorely mistaken," Netanyahu said.

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Israeli army Chief of Staff Lt. Gen Herzi Halevi said on Tuesday that Israel was close to making a decision on how to address the border clashes with Hezbollah.

The Lebanese group's attacks against Israel have escalated since mid-April, with the group launching more sophisticated strikes against Israeli military sites using drones and heavy rockets.

Analysts have said that the intensification of Hezbollah's attacks are meant to establish deterrence against a possible Israeli incursion into southern Lebanon.

Diplomats have engaged in shuttle diplomacy to forge a deal between Israel and Hezbollah and prevent an all-out war between the two but have met with little success until now.

Deputy Secretary General of Hezbollah Naim Qassem said on Tuesday that "if Israel wants to wage an all-out-war, we are ready for it."