Photo Credit: Screen grab, Israel's Kan TV public broadcaster
Flames spreading near Modiin

Firefighting teams across the country continued on high alert this Thursday as dry weather and high temperatures combined to create the perfect conditions for wildfires – and the flames spread around the Jerusalem Forest, Beit Haggai in the southern Hebron Hills, in Latrun, in Ben Shemen and sadly, in the moshav of Mevo Modiin. At least 20 people were taken to hospitals to be treated for smoke inhalation.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu instructed the foreign ministry to reach out to friendly nations to request immediate international assistance.

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According to a report broadcast by Channel 13 television, Ami Eshed, commander of the Central District Firefighting Unit said most of the town of Mevo Modiin has been destroyed by the fires.

Dozens of firefighters, fire trucks were aided by firefighting aircraft trying to control flames raging in various areas around the country. Firefighters worked to put out a fire in an apartment building in Beitar Illit in Judea, where a mother and her children were rescued by first responders, and a man was reported to be injured and in fair condition.

In the community of Beit Haggai in the southern Hebron Hills, residents in at least one line of homes were evacuated, with reports of 15 people treated for smoke inhalation in the kibbutz. Military tankers were used to help firefighters battle the blaze, similar to one that broke out a day earlier.

At least one IDF soldier was injured while helping to extinguish a blame in Kibbutz Karmiya near the coastal city of Ashkelon and near Gaza border. The soldier was taken to Barzilai Medical Center for treatment.

The Zikkim Junction in southern Israel was blocked by police due to a fruit grove that was reported to be in flames.

Israel Police report residents of Kibbutz Harel have been evacuated due to a large fire in that area as well; a blaze has also been reported in Mateh Yehuda.

The situation is even more complicated as many families are accustomed to taking field trips, hikes and walks on this day, the Jewish holiday of Lag B’Omer.

But the Israel Nature and Parks Protection Authority has appealed to the public not to take walks or hike in open areas through Friday due to the high-risk weather. In addition, the Authority warned “in accordance with the instructions of the Firefighting Commission it is forbidden to light fires while these conditions prevail at reserves and parks in Israel.”

Brush land and forests around the country caught fire in the heat wave, which reached as high as 44 degrees celsius in the southern city of Be’er Sheva, and up to 48 degrees at the Dead Sea resort area of Ein Bokek, by Thursday afternoon.

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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.