1,700 Fires Extinguished in Israel Over Three Days Amid Intense Heatwave

Firefighting jets from Egypt, Greece, Cyprus, Croatia and Italy helped Israel put out the flames

Firefighting teams trying to put out the flames in the central city of Elad, May 23, 2019.
Omer Shapira

Over 15,000 dunams (3,700 acres) of forests and swaths of land burned down in wildfires across Israel that started Thursday, setting ablaze dozens of homes amid an intense heatwave.

1,700 fires were extinguished over the past three days. 1,500 firefighters, together with volunteers as well as employees from the Jewish National Fund and Nature and Parks Authority participated in the efforts to stop the fires.

40 homes were completely destroyed in the Mavo Modi'im community in central Israel and ten additional ones were damaged. The community's residents stayed in the Ben Shemen youth village over the weekend, where sacks of clothes donated by concerned citizens awaited them. 40 percent of the Ben Shemen Forest burned down. It is still unclear what caused the fire.

Burnt house in Mevo Modi'im, Israel, May 23, 2019.

In the Jewish settlement of Negohot in the West Bank several structures were damaged and 15 residents were lightly hurt by smoke inhalation. Small fires broke out near the settlement of Paduel in the West Bank as well as in Beit Ezra in central Israel. Egyptian firefighting jets participated in extinguishing this fire.

In Kibbutz Harel near Jerusalem, ten structures burned down and 5,000 dunams (1,200 acres), including 3,000 dunams of forest land, burned as well. The firefighting services believe the fire was caused by a short circuit due to the heat wave. Firefighting jets from Cyprus helped fight the fire in Kibbutz Harel.

Fire spreads throughout southern Mount Hebron in the West Bank, May 23, 2019.

Firefighting jets from Egypt, Greece, Cyprus, Croatia and Italy were sent to Israel for backup after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu instructed the National Security Council, the Foreign Ministry and Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan to act to ensure international aerial assistance in putting out the flames.

In Tel Aviv, temperatures reached up to 38 degrees Celsius (100.4 Fahrenheit) on Thursday, while 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit) were measured in the northern city of Haifa and in the southern city of Ashkelon temperatures rose up to 43 degrees Celsius (109.4 Fahrenheit).