Police Arrest Beit Shemesh Arsonist

Police said yesterday they intend to press arson charges against a homeless person arrested in Beit Shemesh on suspicion of starting a wildfire that caused damage to a nearby police station. According to police, the man, who suffers from psychiatric illness and alcoholism, tried to commit suicide in a police car after his arrest. He later admitted to interrogators that he dropped a cigarette in the field where the fire began. The suspect's remand was extended until Thursday.

Police said he is not suspected of involvement in the huge blaze that destroyed over 700 acres of woodland in the area last week.

Meanwhile, fires resumed yesterday in the Golan Heights and the Baram forest in the Galilee. The fires spread across three sites in the Golan - Yehudia, Habashan and near Kibbutz Mezar. As of last night, firefighters were still struggling to control the blazes.

In Nesher, a large fire broke out in an open lot in the middle of the residential neighborhood of Givat Amos. Firefighters suspect the fire was accidently started by residents, who wanted to drive off snakes and insects from the ground, but the wind turned the flames onto their homes, prompting an evacuation. No casualties or damage to the homes were reported.

In the Baram forest, some 250 acres of planted forests were destroyed, as well as some 25 acres on Mount Biria. JNF sources said yesterday they believe the fires were started deliberately, but stressed they were awaiting the results of a Fire and Rescue Services investigation.