Hundreds of people were evacuated from their homes in Jerusalem on Sunday as a massive blaze tore through a forest near a hospital on the outskirts of the Holy City, police said.
Scores of fire engines rushed to the scene of the blaze which broke out in woodlands near the Hadassa hospital just above the village of Ein Kerem, believed to be the biblical home of John the Baptist.
"The fire is huge," police spokesman Mickey Rosenfeld says. "We have evacuated the whole population of Moshav Ora and Aminadav," he said, referring to two collective villages in the hills of southwest Jerusalem which are home to around 1 500 people.
"Several streets near the hospital have already gone up in flames -- the whole area has been shut down," he said, although there were no immediate reports of injuries.
Rosenfeld said two fire helicopters were also trying to tackle the blaze, with police on hand to help out.
Huge clouds of smoke were billowing into the air, obscuring much of the view across the sprawling valley, local witnesses said.
Many roads leading to the area were closed to allow speedier access for emergency vehicles trying to reach the scene, they said.