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Israel Prepares For Locust Attack Amid Heat Wave

May 17, 1988

JERUSALEM (AP) _ Israel set up an emergency unit today to prepare for a possible invasion of locusts from Africa, in what would be the first time the Biblical plague has struck the country in almost 30 years.

Shmuel Elhanan, director of the unit, said the Agriculture Ministry fears that unusually high temperatures in the country could attract swarms of the yellow desert insects, which are already devouring crops in parts of Africa.

A small number of the insects have been sighted in Egypt’s Sinai Desert, just south of Israel. But officials warned of a possible larger invasion from the south.

″Once this locust has swarmed, it flies in groups of millions and even billions, so that even if each one eats only part of an ounce, the damage is impossible to estimate, just as described in the Bible,″ said Elhanan.

The locust threat came as the worst heat wave to strike Israel in 18 years entered a fourth day today. Temperatures reached 113 degrees Monday in the West Bank city of Jericho.

The heat has caused forest fires that destroyed more than 1,350 acres of trees and pastures. An Austrian tourist died of heat stroke while hiking in the desert over the weekend.

Elhanan told Israel radio that he had set aside light aircraft and jeeps to spray insecticides at the locusts if they arrived.

Some crops are destroyed by the flying swarm, but most of the destruction occurs after the insects lay eggs at night. The larvae, which hatch in 15 to 20 days, devour all green vegetation.

Emergency telephone hotlines have been set up so that anyone who spotted locusts could inform the government.

Israel’s last invasion of locusts in 1959 destroyed thousands of crops before they were harvested.

According to the Old Testament, a locust invasion was one of 10 plagues visited upon the ancient Egyptians by the God of the Israelites.

″They covered all the ground until it was black. They devoured all that was left after the hail ... nothing green remained on tree or plant in all the land of Egypt.″ (Exodus, 10:15)

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