Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made a new plea Friday evening for international assistance to battle a massive brushfire that has been burning across a large area of northern Israel for more than 24 hours, killing 42 people, and destroying vegetation and homes. Thousands of people have been evacuated in numerous communities in the area.
The prime minister spoke Friday with the leaders of Norway, Finland, the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany, asking them to send fire-fighting planes. Netanyahu also called his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan earlier Friday, to thank him personally for Turkey’s help in fighting the fire, which comes despite a rocky two years of bilateral ties between the formerly close allies.
President Barack Obama discussed the deadly fire with Netanyahu during a telephone call from Air Force One, after it departed from Afghanistan, where he visited U.S. troops.
The U.S. is sending a team of expert firefighters and supplies to Israel to help the country contain the worst forest fire in its history, Obama administration officials said Friday.
Other countries sending aid include Cyprus, Egypt, Jordan, France, Britain, Italy, Croatia, Russia, Spain and Romania. Overall, more than 20 fire-fighting planes from abroad were expected to arrive in Israel, with New York's fire department also agreeing to send a fire-fighting airplane. A Russian aircraft capable of holding 42,000 thousands liters of water also landed in Israel on Friday, which Israel hopes will be airborne Saturday.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Friday also paid tribute to nations which had provided Israel with resources to battle the blaze.
"We are moving as quickly as we can to provide this assistance, and are heartened by similar efforts to contribute resources from Israel’s other friends around the world,” Clinton said. “My hope is that the fires are extinguished soon. The hearts of the people of the United States go out to the people of Israel, and we stand with them at this difficult time.”
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