Fires in Israel destroy homes, force evacuations
JERUSALEM (JTA)-Fires throughout Israel, fanned by dry conditions and high winds, have led to the evacuation of thousands of people from their homes.
Several homes have been destroyed by the conflagrations on Tuesday and Wednesday.
A brush fire that began Tuesday and spread to Zichron Yaakov, located at the southern tip of the Carmel Forest in northern Israel, continued to burn on Wednesday, destroying at least 10 homes and damaging dozens more. Several adults and children were treated for smoke inhalation as thousands were evacuated from the city.
At least 30 firefighting teams, 12 military firefighting units and four planes were working on Wednesday to control the blaze.
Also on Wednesday, firefighting teams were battling fires outside of Jerusalem near Beit Shemesh and near the West Bank settlement of Dolev, northwest of Jerusalem.
Early Tuesday, the Arab and Jewish residents of the Neve Shalom coexistence community located on the outskirts of Jerusalem were evacuated after a forest fire burning out of control set fire to areas of the community.
Several other fires were reported in Israel's north and in the Etzion Bloc south of Jerusalem.
Police are investigating whether some of the fires are a result of arson.
High levels of pollution have been measured in the areas near the fires.
High winds are expected throughout Israel through Thursday with dry conditions continuing.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu asked the prime ministers of Greece and Croatia to send assistance in fighting wildfires running rampant across the country.
The two countries agreed during phone conversations on Wednesday to send firefighter aircraft on Thursday. Netanyahu reportedly also asked Russia, Italy and Cyprus to send assistance as well.
According to a statement from the Prime Minister's Office, he made the calls after visiting the fire-fighting command center near Zichron Yaakov, located at the southern tip of the Carmel Forest in northern Israel. On Tuesday and Wednesday, fires in the area destroyed at least 10 homes and damaged dozens of others.
Several adults and children were treated for smoke inhalation. Thousands were evacuated from the city. At least 30 firefighting teams, 12 military firefighting units and four planes were working to control the blaze.
Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan said on Wednesday that some of the fires started around the country were accidents and some are believed to be arson.