Benjamin Netanyahu and Ban Ki-moon AP 8.11.2010
Benjamin Netanyahu, left, greeting Ban Ki-moon at the United Nations, Nov. 8, 2010. Photo by AP
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United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon assured Friday night Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that the UN would do everything possible to mobilize further assistance to stop the "terrible tragedy," as the wildfire continued to spread throughout the Carmel Mountains in northern Israel.

"The United Nations will continue to stand ready and assist the State of Israel in every way it can in mobilizing further support from Member States, including for the rehabilitation of the affected areas," Ban said.

By late Friday evening, the fire, which broke out on the Carmel hill south-east of the northern city of Haifa, had claimed more than 40 lives, destroyed more than 8,500 acres of parched, drought-stricken land and devoured more than 4 million trees, and forced 17,000 people from 14 locations to flee their homes.

The UN chief added that he was impressed with the government's response to the largest forest fire in the country's history, and stressed that he was "inspired by the generous international assistance rendered to the State of Israel within hours of the beginning of the fire, especially from your neighbors in the region."

"I am deeply saddened by the loss of life, suffering, human displacement and damage to nature caused by the ongoing fire on Mount Carmel in northern Israel," Ban wrote, adding "this is a terrible tragedy. I would like to convey my deepest sympathy and extend my condolences to the bereaved families."