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Jerusalem blaze under control

By Gil Tannenbaum

JERUSALEM — The forest fires which have raged in the Judean hills around Jerusalem this week have been placed under control, according to local fire authorities.

View of flames near moshav Giva’at Ye’arim outside of Jerusalem that began on Sunday and have continued to spread, Aug. 16, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The fires were contained without the need for foreign aid.

It had been suggested by senior Israeli officials, including Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, that it might be necessary to reach out for help from nearby countries like Greece.

At one point, things looked so bad that even the Hadassah Hospital in Ein Kerem considered evacuating its patients.

The hospital, located in the southeast corner of Jerusalem, lies on the edge of the Jerusalem forest.

On Tuesday evening, National Fire and Rescue Commissioner Dedi Simchi made the official announcement that fires had been suppressed after 52 hours of continuous firefighting.

It was expected that firefighters would need to continue to work on the ground Wednesday to put out the last of the flames.

Sunday night it was believed that the worst was over, but the massive blaze grew in scope and intensity on Monday afternoon, Aug. 16, after winds picked up speed, forcing the Israel Fire and Rescue Service to mobilize personnel from all over Israel and order the evacuation of another 2,000 people.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett reviewed the situation on the ground Tuesday while flying over the scene of the fires. He thanked the pilots who helped put out the fires and told them that they were doing a wonderful job.

Over 200 fire crews comprising 1,500 firefighters took part in the operation.

The IDF’s elite helicopter rescue unit 669 was also deployed in the area to assist.

Firefighters also used 20 firefighting aircraft. An Air Squadron released 190,000 liters of flame inhibitor and 516,000 liters of foam over 206 sorties comprising 238 flight hours.

Ten towns had to be evacuated: Tzova, Givat Ya’arim, Shoeva, Ramat Raziel, Eitanim, Beit Meir, Shoresh, Ein Rafa, Ein Kerem and Ein Nakuba.

Evacuees have been able to return to their homes in all of these places except in Eitanim as well as number of households evacuated from Ramat Raziel and Givat Ye’arim.

Nissim Toito, Jerusalem District Commander of the Fire Dept., said it was “perhaps the biggest fire in recent years in the Jerusalem mountains.”

Environmental Protection Minister Tamar Zandberg said:

“Entire areas of functioning ecosystems were completely destroyed, and many animals were found dead among the flames. The destruction here is inconceivable, and there is no doubt that nature in the mountains of Jerusalem will be very difficult to rehabilitate itself.”

Zandberg promised that once all of the fires have been put out, the government would begin intensive work in order to assess the extent of the damage done to the environment.

She said a rehabilitation plan for the damaged natural systems would be be prepared.

“The government must declare a climate emergency, and adopt the Climate Change Directorate’s report to be included by the Ministry of Environmental Protection,” she urged.

“In the new world, climate disasters are part of the routine, and we must prepare accordingly,” added Zandberg.

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