Fire erupted Wednesday afternoon in the Jerusalem Forest, on the outskirts of the capital, as well as in several southern Israeli areas.
Due to flames that spread near the railroad tracks in Sha’ar HaGai, train service was suspended on the express line from Ben Gurion International Airport to the Yitzhak Navon station at Jerusalem’s central bus station.
Highway 1 was shut down in both directions in the vicinity of Neve Ilan, Maaleh Ha’Chamisha, Har Adar and Sataf. Highway 425, connecting Jerusalem to Tel Aviv, was also closed, in the direction of Sataf.
Wildfires broke out near Neve Ilan, near the town of Abu Gosh, in the Sataf National Forest and at the Tur Sinai Organic Farm.
Fires that spread close to Abu Gosh and Kibbutz Yad Ha’Shmonah, northwest of Jerusalem, prompted authorities to evacuate residents from both communities for their safety.
In addition, police also temporarily evacuated residents from their homes in Kibbutz Ma’ale Ha’Chamisha, as 10 fire fighting planes and more than 150 firefighters (70 firefighting teams) were battling the flames. No injuries have been reported and the residents later were allowed to return.
According to Israel’s Channel 20 News outlet, there is reason to believe the blazes did not start spontaneously.
“Fires do not start alone; there is a suspicion that it is man-made,” said a spokesperson for the Jerusalem Fire and Rescue brigade. An investigation has been lauched.
Fires also broke out in an open area in the city of Hadera and near the Besor River near Tze’elim.
“The Besor River blaze is large and there is difficulty reaching the individual points of the fire and to extinguish them. Firefighters were being aided by IDF soldiers to shovel central areas in order to gain control over the flames; forces were trying to create a fire line between the current blaze and areas to which it might spread,” Netivot Fire and Rescue spokesperson Natan Yitzhak said.
Firefighters from the stations in Netivot, Ofakim and Eshkol were sent to help battle the blaze in the Besor River valley, near Tze’elim.
Several fires broke out this past weekend in areas south of Jerusalem near the community of Bat Ayin in Gush Etzion and close to the community of Tzur Hadassah.
Families were temporarily evacuated from their homes in Tzur Hadassah.
There was also a fire in the community of Hatzor, in northern Israel.