Israeli fire crews battle 200 blazes, arson suspected in several

Investigators believe two largest wildfires near airport and in north were deliberately set.

By David Hellerman, World Israel News

Israeli fire crews battled more than 200 wild fires amid unseasonably warm, dry and windy conditions on Saturday. Investigators said several of the blazes, including the two largest, appeared to have been deliberately set.

The largest of the fires were near the northern Israeli town of Gita, and Zeitan, near Ben Gurion International Airport. Until the Zeitan fire was brought under control, planes taking off from the airport had to alter their departures. The Gita fire forced 75 families to evacuate their homes.

Fires also broke out near the northern towns of Hadera, Yarka, Kafr Kabul and Kafr Yasif, the central Israeli towns of Rosh Ha’Ayin and Burgeta and the Har Adar settlement north of Jerusalem.

Authorities officially tallied 212 fires.

On Friday, citing concerns for wildfires amid the weather reports, the Israeli Nature and Parks Authority closed off many hiking paths and nature trails in the areas of the Carmel Forest, Judean Mountains, and other areas through Sunday.

Smoke, along with a dust storm that blew over the country from Jordan and Saudi Arabia, prompted Israeli authorities to warn people with sensitive heart-lung conditions, pregnant women, the elderly and children to stay indoors.

The warm weather and windy conditions are expected to continue.

In August, a massive wildfire outside Jerusalem that took days to get under control was also blamed on arson.