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Weekend fires sweep across Israel as nation suffers under heatwave

A fire near Kibbutz Kfar Etzion, May 27, 2023. (Photo: Fire and Rescue Services)

Israel’s Fire and Rescue Services services had to respond to some 176 fires across the country on Saturday as a heatwave combined with strong winds swept the Jewish state.

While no injuries were reported, homes in the Tsur Moshe community near Netanya were evacuated and residential areas were at risk of catching fire. Visitors and hikers were also told to leave a number of parks and forests.

According to Israel’s firefighters, a group of people playing airsoft gun in the Galilee were responsible for starting two fires, by barbecuing in a prohibited area.

A fire in the city of Acco on the northern Mediterranean coast caused traffic problems, as heavy smoke drifted around an interchange.

Fire and Rescue Commissioner Eyal Caspi prohibited the lighting of fires in open areas throughout the country for 24 hours from 8a.m. – including parks, forests and nature reserves – out of concern that the fires would spread under heavy wind conditions.

The heatwave and large number of fires coincided with Shavuot holiday festivities, when large numbers of Israelis travel and hike on trails across the country.

Israel has been suffering from long, hot and dry summers for several consecutive years, which has created optimal conditions for manmade forest fires.

According to the Times of Israel, large blazes broke out across the nation in 1989, 1995, 2010, 2015, 2019 and 2021.

Authorities also warned that some parts of the country might experience flash floods on Sunday and Monday with heavy rain forecasted for parts of the country. The police warned the public to stay away from riverbeds in the southern Negev desert region during the coming days.

Last month, a brother and sister were killed in a flash flood, when their car was carried away in southern Israel.

The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.

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