Wildfire near Beit She’an spreads across border into Jordan
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Wildfire near Beit She’an spreads across border into Jordan

Firefighters contain blaze in northern Jordan Valley in second day of raging wildfires, fed by tinder dry conditions; authorities suspect massive fire ignited by arsonists

Firefighters extinguish the remains of a fire in Kibbutz Harel, on May 24, 2019. (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)
Firefighters extinguish the remains of a fire in Kibbutz Harel, on May 24, 2019. (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)

One of the wildfires raging throughout Israel amid a major heatwave Friday spread across the border into Jordan overnight, according to reports in Hebrew and Arabic-language media.

Firefighters struggled to contain the blaze that broke out in the Ramat Sirin area in the northern Jordan Valley, managing to put it out only early Saturday morning. But the flames had already spread across the border into Jordan, where local firefighters were dispatched to battle the flames.

According to Channel 12, firefighting officials suspect that arsonists ignited the blaze north of the city of Beit She’an.

As of Saturday morning, nearly all of the hundreds of fires that plagued Israel in recent days were under control, though authorities were bracing for new conflagrations over the weekend amid sweltering temperatures.

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, 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.

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

In the village of Mevo Modi’im, 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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