Fires under control in Jerusalem area
The wildfire near Neve Ilan in the Jerusalem hills, June 9, 2021. (Photo: JNF)

Authorities suspect that massive brushfires that started in the Jerusalem area and West Bank on Wednesday afternoon were caused by arson.

Residents of the communities in the hills surrounding the capital were evacuated from their homes for several hours Wednesday afternoon as firefighters struggled to contain the flames. The fires were later brought under control.

The Jerusalem District Fire Brigade said that fire first broke out on Mount Haruach, near the communities of Neve Ilan, Ma'ale Hahamisha and Abu Ghosh.

The fire soon after spread to nearby Mount Eitan and was nearing homes in Yad Hashmona and Abu Ghosh.

Fires under control in Jerusalem area
Forest fires near Neve Ilan. (Photo: Yoav Dudkevitch)

Roads in the area were closed to traffic as the fire spread. A section of the Route 1 highway between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem was also closed and the train line between the two cities was suspended.

The roads and the train lines to Jerusalem were reopened after firefighters managed to gain control over the flames. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's corruption trial in Jerusalem District Court was also briefly suspended.

Fires under control in Jerusalem area
Smoke rises from wildfire in the Jerusalem hills, June 9, 2021

Over 70 teams of firefighters were on the ground and 10 planes were in the air to battle the fires. Crews from the central region were also dispatched to the scene.

The head of the National Fire and Rescue Authority, Dedi Simchi, said: "We have taken control of the fire after great effort. We have managed to contain the fire in Ma'ale Hahamisha and stopped the danger to the other communities. We are currently engaged in fully extinguishing the fires."

Fires under control in Jerusalem area
Smoke rises from wildfire in the Jerusalem hills, June 9, 2021

A fire also broke out in the central West Bank near the settlements of Ariel and Shavei Shomron.

Teams of volunteer and reservist firefighters from the Samaria regional station rushed to the scene, where they battled a kilometer-long front with the fire spreading rapidly due to the wind.

Firefighters from the Palestinian Authority also joined the efforts to extinguish the fires.

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