Toddler killed in apartment fire in northern city of Safed
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Toddler killed in apartment fire in northern city of Safed

Child’s four-year-old sibling suffers burns, 8 adults treated for smoke inhalation; country faces rash of blazes over several days amid severe heatwave

Firefighters at the scene of a fire in an apartment in the northern city of Safed, May 25, 2019 (Basel Awidat/Flash90)
Firefighters at the scene of a fire in an apartment in the northern city of Safed, May 25, 2019 (Basel Awidat/Flash90)

A toddler was killed in an apartment fire in the northern city of Safed on Saturday, in one of several blazes across the country throughout the day.

The toddler was identified as three-year-old Elad Prizat. He was initially treated in critical condition but succumbed to his wounds. Prizat’s four-year-old sibling suffered burns and eight adults were treated for smoke inhalation.

Firefighters and police were investigating the cause of the blaze.

Firefighters also worked Saturday to extinguish a number of other fires including a brush fire near the Uzi Narkis bridge in East Jerusalem’s Pisgat Ze’ev neighborhood and blazes in the country’s north near the towns of Mishmar Ha’emek and Megiddo.

Mass forces, including fire planes from Italy and Greece, were used to extinguish those blazes. The fire near Jerusalem threatened to require the evacuation of residents.

The fires Saturday followed a rash of forest fires across Israel over the past three days amid a severe heatwave. As of Saturday morning, nearly all of the hundreds of fires that plagued the country in recent days were under control.

Fueled by the scorching weather, hundreds of fires devastated towns and forests, forcing thousands of people out of their homes on Thursday and Friday. Authorities investigating the fires were looking at electrical faults, Lag B’Omer holiday bonfires, arson and incendiary balloons from the Gaza Strip as possible causes.

Security forces arrested three residents of East Jerusalem on suspicion of arson on Friday. Each of the men is suspected of attempting to start fires in and around Jerusalem in separate incidents over the last two days.

At an emergency briefing this week, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel had appealed for international help to combat the fires, and that aid had arrived from Greece, Croatia, Italy, Egypt and Cyprus.

Israel “really appreciates” the help, Netanyahu said, singling out Egypt’s President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi for pitching in with two helicopters. He added that several others, including Russia and the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank, had offered aid.

Firefighter planes work to put out a fire near Kibbutz Harel, May 24, 2019. (Flash90)

“I am deeply thankful for the readiness of neighbors to help us in a time of crisis, just as we help them,” Netanyahu said.

Some 3,500 people were evacuated from towns and dozens of homes were torched Thursday as brush fires raged across the country. Over 500 acres of woodland have burned, said Nitai Zecharya, a Jewish National Fund official.

In the village of Mevo Modiim, 40 of the 50 homes in the community in central Israel burned down. Nearby Kibbutz Harel was also particularly hard hit. Residents of the two communities have not been allowed to return home.

Firefighters battle a blaze near Kibbutz Harel in central Israel, May 23, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Zecharya said that while firefighters had brought most of the blaze under control, officials remained “very stressed” about strong winds fanning flames and “spreading fires to other fronts.”

A high temperature of 116ºF (47ºC) was recorded at the village of Beit Haarava, near the Dead Sea, late Friday afternoon.

Temperatures had begun to drop gradually beginning Friday night.

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