Huge forest fire rages in Jerusalem outskirts

High winds fan flames toward Givat Shaul neighborhood as dozens of fire trucks and aircraft battle blaze

Stuart Winer is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

A huge forest fire raged toward Jerusalem on Wednesday, briefly forcing the closure of the main artery from Tel Aviv into the capital as firefighters struggled to contain the blaze and prevent it from reaching residential neighborhoods.

Some 25 fire trucks with the support of eight fire-fighting aircraft were called out to deal with blaze in the Jerusalem forest near the Givat Shaul neighborhood.

The Jerusalem fire department said high winds were fanning the flames toward the outlying western neighborhoods of the city.

There were no reports of injury or damage to property.

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The eastbound lane of Route 1, the Jerusalem-Tel Aviv road, was temporarily shut to traffic but later reopened. Some roads inside Jerusalem were also closed, including Akiva Azulai, Kanfei Nesharim, and Nahum Haftzadi streets.

An Israel Electric Corporation installation in the area was evacuated. Emergency services prepared to evacuate Nahum Haftzadi Street in Jerusalem, which overlooks the area of the fire, and streets in the Motza suburb. Residents of neighboring Givat Shaul and Har Nof were told to stay indoors and keep their windows shut.

On Saturday a forest fire in northern Israel prompted emergency crews to evacuate visitors from the Megiddo and Ramot Menashe national parks and close nearby roads. Some 10 firefighting crews, along with crop-dusting planes, battled the blaze. There were no reports of injuries or major damage.

The fire broke out in a forest adjacent to the Megiddo junction in Wadi Ara, a major crossroads in northern Israel between the Haifa-area Mount Carmel and city of Afula.

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