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JERUSALEM - Israel on Thursday called on Egypt to take steps to control swarms of red locusts that have invaded southern Israel.

The locusts originated in West Africa and traveled over Libya and Egypt. They began moving into Israel on Friday from Egypt's Sinai peninsula, entering the southern city of Eilat and nearby areas of the Negev desert, consuming plants and trees and threatening crops.

Agriculture Minister Yisrael Katz said he sent a message to his Egyptian counterpart Thursday requesting that Egypt act against the insects, and offering to supply spray planes, equipment and know-how.

"If the issue is not taken care of in Egypt, it will be extremely difficult to block the mass of locusts," Katz told Army Radio.

There was no immediate comment from Egyptian authorities.

Locusts normally live between two and six months, eat their weight about 0.07 ounces in crops every day. They can travel 200 kilometers a day.

Witnesses called the Agriculture Ministry on Thursday, saying they had sighted the pestilence as far north as Jerusalem and the northern port city of Haifa, Israel Radio said.