JERUSALEM (Oct. 14)
Wild brush fires are once again ravaging central and northern Israel.
Thousands of Israelis were forced to leave their homes during the recent holiday of Sukkot, as black clouds of smoke hovered in the air from Ayelet Hashahar in the north to Jerusalem in the south.
Large territories of woodland were destroyed, mostly in the Carmel Mountain region near Haifa, and officials briefly closed the Jerusalem-Tel Aviv highway after fires smoldered in the Jerusalem hills.
The fires have destroyed a reported 675 square miles of forest and olive and citrus groves in Lebanon.
The blazes were largely attributed to the extremely hot weather and dry winds – – as well as to the negligence of picnickers who failed to extinguish the coals from their holiday barbecues.
In at least one case, however, it is possible that the fires had a more intentional cause. An Israeli court extended the arrest Tuesday of three Israeli Arab youths who are being held on suspicion of having set fire to areas near Umm-el-Fahm, the site of recent clashes between Israeli police and Israeli Arabs.