Israeli police arrested three Palestinians for suspected arson in the blazes that broke out early Tuesday at the Einot Tzukim Nature Reserve in the northern Dead Sea.
The fire caused damage to 500 dunams (125 acres) of vegetation. Following the fire, Route 90 was partially closed.
According to the police, the three were stopped while driving "suspiciously" along Route 90. In the car, police found funnels and reported a strong smell of fuel coming from the vehicle and the passengers' clothing.
Two of the suspects are residents of East Jerusalem, while the third is from Eizariya, a town in the West Bank. The suspects, all in their 20s, are currently under investigation.
A family member of one of the suspects told Haaretz that the three deny all allegations being attributed to them. According to him, they carried petrol in order to refuel the car, which got stuck. The vehicle is now held by police.
Sixteen fire crews and four aircraft worked overnight to stop the advance of the fire northward inside the reserve. The fire was contained Tuesday morning.
The fire department said that an emergency assessment will be held Tuesday with all the emergency authorities regarding the continuation of firefighting and aircraft operations.
The manager of the Einot Tzukim Nature Reserve, Eldad Hazan, said that some of the animals living in the reserve died in the blazes.
"Those who were especially hurt were small animals, mostly insects and reptiles, some of which are unique to the reserve," Hazan said.
Most of the animals that died reptiles, which are slower and therefore struggled to escape. Nonetheless, Hazan said that "the damage is great but we believe that the reserve will recover quickly."
In the coming days, the Nature and Parks Authority personnel are set to act to prevent the fire from spreading out again in the reserve, which has been closed to visitors.
Later they will have to assess whether it could be reopened; it may be that it will remain close in the near future so as not to jeopardize travelers.
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