Jerusalem Wildfire Disrupts Cabinet Meeting; Hospital, Residents Evacuated

Residents of communities in the Judean Hills have been evacuated from their homes as the blaze rages across the area

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The fire near Jerusalem, on Sunday.
The fire near Jerusalem, on Sunday.Credit: The Israel Nature and Parks Authority

Firefighters and emergency crews struggled to contain massive wildfires in the Jerusalem area Sunday, and authorities have evacuated four communities as the flames encroached.  

A video from the fireCredit: Nir Hasson

Earlier, Bennett abruptly ended a national security cabinet meeting to hold consultations on the spreading conflagration.

The fire near Jerusalem, on SundayCredit: Israel Police

Residents were evacuated from Ramat Raziel before buildings in the community went up in flames. Ksalon, Beit Meir and Giv'at Ye'arim were also vacated as the blaze raged, as was a nearby mental health facility. Public Security Minister Omer Bar-Lev said that authorities are investigating reports that three of the hospital's patients went missing during the evacuation. 

The area of the fire, in the western Judean Hills

The Magen David Adom rescue service has thus far treated three people who suffered light smoke inhalation. 

Fire department chief Dedy Simhi praised his firefighters tonight saying they were able to save several towns from "burning to the ground." According to his statement there's no immediate danger to residential areas at this time. The fire department will continue to monitor the area overnight and for the next few days to keep the fire from spreading.

Smoke above the KnessetCredit: Ibtisam Mara'ana

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Twelve firefighter planes worked to manage the blaze, but landed after sundown. The flames have ben quickly spreading due to strong winds, and fire crews from nearby districts have been called to the scene to assist local firefighters. Police and the military are taking part in the efforts as well. 

Forces are focusing their efforts on the Giv'at Ye'arim area at the moment. Firefighters have managed to get the blaze under control in Ramat Raziel, Ksalon, Beit Meir, Shoresh and Sho'eva. Rescue services are preparing for the fire to spread to other areas as well.

About 170 families left Ramat Raziel community of their own accord, but are having difficulty reaching Jerusalem because of roadblocks placed due to the fires. 

Boaz Leviatan, a resident of Ramat Raziel, criticized the authorities' response to the situation. "I called the police three times, but planes only started getting here a half an hour after the fire arrived," he told Haaretz. By that point, the community was already on fire, "but there were no police officers or firefighters in the area."

After that, Leviatan convinced his neighbors to leave the community, even though there was no official police directive to do so. Police instructions came much later, he said. "The police had closed some of the roads in the community and didn't let people pass, and they were trapped inside," he said. The police said that they would investigate the residents' claims. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report.