Forest Fires Cause Delays at Israel's Ben-Gurion International Airport

Firefighting crews worked to control the Hebesor fire well into the night, but on Friday morning the fire returned as the latest heat wave worsened

Efforts to extinguish fires in the Habesor region in the northwest Negev in southern Israel, May 18, 2018
Israel Nature and Parks Authority

Forest fires continued to burn on Friday, including one in the Habesor region in the northwest Negev which broke out Thursday afternoon. A large brush fire broke out Friday morning near the city of Elad in central Israel and caused delays in takeoffs and landings at Ben-Gurion International Airport.

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Firefighting crews worked to control the Hebesor fire well into the night and managed to bring the blaze under control, but Friday morning the fire returned as the latest heat wave worsened. Four teams of firefighters from the Israel Fire and Rescue Services as well as the Jewish National Fund were on the scene.

The extremely hot and dry sharav wind conditions worsened on Friday throughout most of the country and is forecast to continue into Saturday. Sunday will be cooler but will still remain unseasonably hot and dry.

15 firefighting crews were called in to control the fire near the airport and a number of buildings were in danger of going up in flames.

A forest fire broke out near the Yarkon junction on Route 5 and traffic was stopped in both directions. Five firefighting teams were called in. A junkyard and warehouse were damaged.

Another fire started near the train tracks in the Lehavim area and trains between Kiryat Gat and Be’er Sheva were halted.  

The commander of the Western Negev Fire and Rescue Services, Yaakov Gabbai, said the Habesor fire broke out again after the remnants of the fire were fanned by the heavy winds. Thousands of acres of forest and other vegetation were seriously damaged and residents and hikers were told to stay away from the area. It is still not known what caused the fire, he said.

The nature preserve in the area was also damaged severely, the had of the southern region of the Israel Nature and Parks Authority, Gilad Gabbai, told Haaretz. Most of the reserve was burnt. About 1,250 to 1,500 acres burnt, he said.

The nature reserve is the natural habitat for many animals and their natural food sources, the vegetation in the region, were completely destroyed, said Gabbai. Animals were fleeing the area, including wolves, foxes, wild boars and jackals, as well as birds and reptiles. The incident is far from over, he added.