Large Wildfire Erupts in Central Jerusalem; Firefighters Gain Control of Flames

The blaze began near the Monastery of the Cross, burning 25 square km of wild brush near the Israeli parliament; firefighters investigating the possibility of arson.

A large wildfire erupted Tuesday afternoon in central Jerusalem's Valley of the Cross near the Knesset. The Jerusalem Fire Department gained control of the fire within a few hours, though fire was still burning in several locations and firefighters were still fighting to extinguish the flames.

The fire burned 25 square km (15.5 square miles) of wild brush, near the Monastery of the Cross and two scouts' compounds. The monastery and scout compounds were evicted and the adjacent streets were closed to traffic, due to the heavy smoke.

The fire department said that the strong winds caused the rapid spread of the fire. Assaf Avras, the Jerusalem Fire Department Spokesmansaid that an investigation into the cause of the fire was underway. "All possibilities will be investigated including arson," he said. "The fire began near the Monastery of the Cross and spread eastward due to the strong winds. At a certain point the monastery was entirely surrounded by flames and smoke, at which point a decision was made to evict its residents and the cars in the area."

A month ago, the capital was plagued by a wave of fires. An unknown person sparked fires in ten places in and around Jerusalem's east Talpiot neighborhood. The fires did not result in casualties. The fire department said that they suspected that the fires were set by a single arsonist.

Oren Nahshon