Photo Credit: Mati Amar / TPS
Fire races along the dry brush near Givat Ronen in Samaria

Fires broke out Wednesday in several locations around the northern Negev in southern Israel, and in the Samaria region further north.

Two of the fires were ignited near Moshav Bitha and Moshav Ranen; officials said it is possible the flames started as a result of the hot, dry weather that came with the ‘sharav’ condition which began on Tuesday.

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But there is also a possibility that arsonists may have set the blazes as well, said police, who were forced to close parts of Route 241 and Route 232 as firefighters battled the flames.

Israel Railways also briefly shut down one of its routes between the southern Israeli towns of Netivot and Ofakim as the flames drew close to the tracks on a nearby route.

Six firefighting teams and four firefighter aircraft were needed to get control over the blaze.

Brush fires were also ignited near Givat Ronen and around the area of Har Bracha, in the Samaria region, as well as around the Beit El area, from the direction of Jelazoun where firefighters battled a blaze near a row of homes. A number of yards were damaged by the flames.

Thick smoke also forced a number of residents from their homes, and several caravans were damaged as well.

Investigators have launched a probe to determine the cause of the flames – last year the majority of fires — some of them deadly — that spread around the country were found to have been deliberately set by terrorists.

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Hana Levi Julian is a Middle East news analyst with a degree in Mass Communication and Journalism from Southern Connecticut State University. A past columnist with The Jewish Press and senior editor at Arutz 7, Ms. Julian has written for Babble.com, Chabad.org and other media outlets, in addition to her years working in broadcast journalism.