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Wildfires in Middle East force evacuations, detonate landmines

The intensity of the heatwave is unusual for this time of year, according to Global News, hitting Syria, Lebanon, Israel and the Palestinian territories especially hard.

War-torn Syria has been hit the hardest, with two killed already and dozens more suffering with breathing problems because of the smoke over the past two days,

Vast areas of forests in Homs and in the coastal province of Latakia have been burned, causing firefighters to be overwhelmed. Many local residents have resorted to using primitive methods for fighting the fires, carrying buckets of water to pour on the blazes.

The Director of the Forestry Department in Latakia, Bassem Douba, was quoted by the state news agency, SANA, as saying that the number of fires reached 85 in different sites. Fires in President Bashar Assad’s hometown of Qardaha, also in Latakia, heavily damaged a warehouse used as storage for the state-owned tobacco company, collapsing a portion of the building.

In Lebanon, firefighters, guarded by army helicopters, battled wildfires in the north, central and southern regions of the country. In the southern village of Bater, hundreds of pine trees succumbed to the flames before the fire was finally put out.

Several villages along Lebanon’s border with Israel have been battling wildfires and the fires have triggered the detonation of landmines along the heavily-guarded border.

Multiple wildfires have broken out in northern Israel, forcing about 5,000 people to evacuate their homes Friday night. While extreme heat is being blamed for most of the fires, Israeli Security has raised concerns that a few of the blazes may have been deliberately started by Palestinians.

At least ten houses were burned and some 30 people were slightly injured from inhaling smoke, 10 of which were firefighters, according to the Jerusalem Post.

More fires have been reported in other areas of the country, including in the West Bank settlement of Mevo Dotan and Bat Hefer. Traffic has been directed away from these areas, and residents in many municipalities have been asked to evacuate their homes.

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