israel wildfire
Wildfires raged across Israel. Pictured is a firefighting plane dropping fire retardant near the communal settlement of Nataf, near Jerusalem, Nov. 23, 2016 Ronen Zvulun/Reuters

Wildfires in northern and central Israel have force thousands from their homes as Croatia, Italy, Greece and Cyprus dispatched firefighters and equipment to help battle the blazes.

Russia also is reported to be sending firefighting aircraft, and officials are mulling whether to ask Turkey for help as well.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said there were indications some of the fires were started by arsonists.

“When you have simultaneous fires raging you can’t rule out the possibility of arson. All leads are being pursued, but our first priority is to extinguish the fire. The extreme weather is making it difficult, and we are preparing for an intense couple of days,” Fire and Rescue Services Coastal District Commander Amos Yaakov told Israel Today.

Two people have been treated for smoke inhalation.

Arutz-Sheva reported the fires worsened early Thursday. Weather forecasts promised no break in the hot, dry weather, with high winds complicating firefighting efforts. Crews managed to subdue a fire in Nataf, near Jerusalem, Wednesday but new blazes erupted in Karkom, near Tiberias.

“These are terrible scenes to look at,” Israel Parks and Nature Authority director Shaul Goldstein told the Jewish Press. “A whole world has been burnt. Animals and a rich plant world that we couldn’t manage to protect. More than the stiff punishments that should be meted out to the people responsible.”

Four suspects have been questioned in the Nataf fire, which began Wednesday morning, police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld told the Jerusalem Post. He said the suspects had been repairing a roadway when the fire started, forcing the evacuation of more than 200 people.

Two homes were destroyed and 30 damaged in the northern town of Zichron Yaakov and residents were evacuated to the Arab village of Abu Gosh, Ynetnews reported. Fire threatened a gas storage facility between Kiryat Arba and the Adora settlement in the West Bank, forcing road closures in both directions. A large brush fire also broke out near a school in Nazareth.

Acting fire Commissioner Shimon Ben-Ner issued a nationwide ban on bonfires and fires in open fields.

Forest fires raged in Shefar’am and near Kiryat Gat.