Breaking: Firefighters Battling Blaze in Gush Etzion

Three firefighting teams are struggling to contain a fire along Route 367 in Judea's Gush Etzion on Friday afternoon near the Gvaot forest, a witness confirmed to Arutz Sheva

The fire has begun spreading southward. An additional two teams and four firefighting helicopters have been called in as of 1:15 p.m. local time. 

Locals report to Arutz Sheva that Route 376 has been closed. 

Families in caravans along the edge of Gvaot have been evacuated as a precaution, Walla! News reports. 

This is the second major fire in one week. On Tuesday, a fire spread in the community of Beit Haggai in Judea hours before the Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement) fast began, leading to the evacuation of an IDF post.

Investigators suspected arson in the blaze, as two similar fires had been set at the town over the past month. 

Fires are common in Israel during the summer, as the dry and arid desert heat can easily fan the flames of dying campfires.

However, terrorists have also used the weather as an excuse to commit arson across multiple points in Israel, and a wave of large forest fires last year was attributed, at least in part, to deliberate attempts to overwhelm firefighting forces and destroy property. 

The 2010 Carmel fire near Haifa, considered one of Israel's worst and which killed 44 people, was suspected by police to have been started by two Arab youths from the Druze village of Usafia. Nevertheless, the criminal case against them was closed in 2011 over "insufficient evidence."


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