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Wildfires scorch Israel; Middle East heat held at bay this week

By Eric Leister, AccuWeather senior meteorologist
By Adam Douty, AccuWeather senior meteorologist
May 26, 2019, 11:33:00 AM EDT

The hottest weather in recent years helped fuel several dangerous wildfires across Israel late last week.

Temperatures peaked at 44 degrees Celsius (111 degrees Fahrenheit) in Tel Aviv on Thursday and was followed by a high of 42 C (108 F) on Friday. The normal high is only 29 C (84 F) for late May.

Around 3,500 people were forced to evacuate their homes as fires destroyed dozens of residences across the country, according to the Jerusalem Post.

The Times of Israel reported that over 1,000 fires were started in less than a two-day period. The fires burned nearly 2,000 acres.

Israel AP 5/24

Firefighters extinguish a forest fire near Kfar Uriya on Thursday, May 23, 2019. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)

The major highway connecting Tel Aviv and Jerusalem was closed to traffic for a time on Thursday due to multiple fires near the roadway.

Several people were treated for injuries from the wildfires; however, no fatalities had been reported.

The fires were contained on Friday as aid from Italy, Greece, Croatia, Cyprus and Egypt arrived following a request from Israel's Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu. By Saturday night, The Israel Fire and Rescue Services declared the end of the operation to extinguish the fires.

Mideast 5/26

Heat also scorched Egypt, Lebanon, Syria and southern Turkey late in the past week.

A high temperature of 45.6 C (114 F) was reported in Cairo, Egypt, on Thursday, while a high near 42 C (107-108 F) was reported in Adana, Turkey, on Friday.

The heat quickly faded across Israel, with an afternoon high temperature of 28 C (82 F) in Tel Aviv on Saturday and Sunday. Similar temperatures were felt along the western coast of the Mediterranean Sea.

While afternoon temperatures will be held at lower levels than late last week, there will be a slow warming trend into the middle of the week.

After more comfortable temperatures over the weekend in Tel Aviv, the high by Wednesday expected to be 32 C (89 F).

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Meanwhile, the core of the heat will remain farther to the east, affecting much of Iraq, western Syria, eastern Saudi Arabia and southwestern Iran.

High temperatures through the start of the coming week are expected to surpass 40 C (104 F) across a large region, including in Baghdad, Kuwait and Riyadh.

The hottest areas in southern Iraq could reach a scorching 46 C (115 F).

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