MODI'IN, Israel - An easterly wind whipped up more forest and brush fires across Israel and the West Bank on Thursday, temporarily forcing the closure of a highway between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, and a senior minister said he suspected many blazes were deliberate.
"Almost 50 percent of the fires are apparently arson," Internal Security Minister Gilad Erdan told Army Radio, while Education Minister Naftali Bennett, the leader of a far-right party, suggested those who set them could not be Jewish.
Large fires were also burning within the boundaries of Haifa, Israel's third largest city, and residents were told to leave their homes.
Scroll down to view photos of the firefighting efforts across the country.
Israel has requested aerial firefighting support
from Croatia, Cyprus, Greece, Italy and Russia, police spokesman Rosenfeld said. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke on Wednesday to his Croatian and Greek counterparts seeking help.
Turkey has also sent a plane to Israel, Netanyahu's office said on Thursday, bringing the total number of foreign aircraft supporting Israel's fire-fighting efforts to 10.