More than 150 firefighters and 13 aircraft have been mobilized to fight an extensive forest fire which broke out Friday afternoon in a mountainous area in central Israel.
The blaze, the largest in Israel this year, started in a forest near the Beit Shemesh area, about 30 km east of Jerusalem, according to firefighting authorities.
Xinhua reporters saw fires raging in many places in forests near the town of Taoz on the highway Route 44 which was closed to traffic due to the blaze.
Columns of thick black smoke could be seen rising from the blaze-affected areas from a long stance near Jerusalem and a number of aircraft were seen dumping fire retardant on the wildfires.
Local media reports said more than 150 firefighters and volunteers were on the scene fighting the forest fire and more have been mobilized to provide extra assistance. Besides, 13 aircraft were aiding the effort to contain the flames, which were spreading quickly due to strong winds.
The fires have posed a threat to the nearby towns of Taoz, Eshtaol, Tarum and Kfar Uriya, with some homes in Eshtaol on standby to be evacuated.
The Haaretz daily reported that by the late evening hours, the blazes have been partially contained.
Jerusalem District fire chief was on the scene overseeing the efforts to contain the blaze, which has burned some 370 acres of land so far, the reports said.
Also on Friday, another fire broke out in northern Israel's Galilee region and it was later put under control thanks to efforts of dozens of firefighters assisted by two aircraft.