Golan Heights nature reserve ravaged by fire
Head of Israeli Northern Command Aluf Gadi Eizenkot ordered Thursday to erect a military investigation committee over allegations that the an Israel Defense Forces tank sparked a bushfire in a nature reserve Golan Heights which damaged much of the plant and animal life in the area.
Israel's nature and parks authority believed the blaze was started by a military tank, whose metal tracks gave off sparks when moving over rocks.
Bushfires in Israel are a common phenomenon in the summer, and often erupt as a result of the IDF's use of live ammunition during training drills.
The IDF spokesperson said in response to the allegations that a tank was responsible for igniting the fire that "an investigation committee will recommend how these types of incidents can be avoided and minimized in the future."
Earlier, Israel's nature and parks authority held emergency meetings to discuss the results and ramifications of the fire, which also threatened to destroy the wildlife in the area, including incubation cages where rare eagle chicks are being reared.
The authority's director general, Eli Amitai, said the Gamla reserve could take years to recover from the damage.
Fire broke out at Gamla in the early hours of Thursday morning.
Strong winds quickly fanned the fire, which in the space of a few hours destroyed much of the parks vegetation, also threatening to destroy incubation cages where rare eagle chicks are being reared.
Firefighters were able to rescue the chick, but the parks authority remains concerned over the long-term impact of the fire on eagle populations in the area, an important nesting site.
Despite efforts over several hours by fire crews, soldiers and park rangers to control the flames, the fire quickly spread towards the Dalya and Yehudia streams and the army evacuated all civilians from the area, which is popular with hikers.
The parks authority plans to reopen the site within the next few days, Amitai said, explaining that entrance fees would be waived in the hope of encouraging visitors and raising awareness of the need to repair the damage.
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