Wildfires near Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank have forced hundreds to flee their homes amid mass evacuations in Israel and more than a dozen arrests, police said Saturday.
Israeli and Palestinian firefighters, assisted by foreign aircraft, have been battling dozens of bush blazes fed by drought and high winds that have resulted in the evacuation of tens of thousands of people. Around 1,000 residents had to leave the Halamish settlement near Ramallah as 45 homes were damaged or destroyed by fire, a police spokeswoman said.
Blazes were also reported near the West Bank settlements of Dolev, Alfei Menashe and Karnei Shomron, although there were no evacuations there.
Firefighting planes from Israel and other countries, including Russia, Turkey, Greece, France, Spain and Canada, continued to dump tons of water and fire retardants on blazes at a number of locations, including the village of Nataf, close to Jerusalem. A police spokeswoman said the large-scale effort managed to bring the Nataf blaze under control by Saturday afternoon, allowing residents to return.
A newly arrived U.S. supertanker, considered the largest firefighting aircraft in the world, joined the emergency operation on Saturday. Police said they had arrested 14 people on suspicion of negligence or deliberately starting fires, without providing details about their identities. (AFP/Reuters)