Israeli firefighters – together with teams from Greece, Cyprus, Turkey, Croatia, Italy and Russia – are battling fires around the country for a third day. The fires, which have already destroyed some residential homes and have forced thousands of people to flee their neighborhoods, are spreading quickly as hot, strong winds fan the flames.

Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said all possible causes of the fires are being checked, including deliberate arson attacks.

Israeli firefighter aircraft try to extinguish a forest fire near Neve Ilan, outside of Jerusalem on November 24, 2016. Photo by Yonatan Sindel/Flash90
Israeli firefighter aircraft try to extinguish a forest fire near Neve Ilan, outside of Jerusalem on November 24, 2016. Photo by Yonatan Sindel/Flash90

Israeli firefighters have said the wildfires are the worst since 2010, when an inferno in the country’s north claimed the lives of 44 people, displaced 17,000 others, and scorched more than one third of the Carmel Forest.

Reports say 220 fires broke out across the country since Tuesday.

Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan and Police Chief Roni Alsheikh ordered police to increase security in forested areas citing suspicions that many of the fires raging across Israel were started deliberately.

A forest fire near ZIchron Yaakov on November 22, 2016. Photo by Meir Vaaknin /Flash90
A forest fire near ZIchron Yaakov on November 22, 2016. Photo by Meir Vaaknin /Flash90

In Haifa today, 12 neighborhoods were evacuated – translating, according to numerous media reports, to tens of thousands of people told to flee their homes.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu put out calls for assistance to neighboring allies. Russia committed to sending two giant Beriev be-200 firefighting aircraft, after Netanyahu asked Russian President Vladimir Putin for help.  Greece, Cyprus, Turkey, Croatia, and Italy have also sent assistance.

Damage caused by a in Zichron Yaakov, November 23, 2016. Photo by Doron Horowitz/Flash90
Damage caused by a in Zichron Yaakov, November 23, 2016. Photo by Doron Horowitz/Flash90