Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid and Defense Minister Benny Gantz both thanked the Palestinian Authority for assisting Israeli firefighters to gain control over a massive fire near Jerusalem on Tuesday.
“I want to thank the President of the Palestinian Authority, Mr. Mahmoud Abbas, for his initiative to send the firefighters who came to help Israel today. Mutual solidarity and saving lives are in our common interest,” Gantz tweeted in Arabic on Tuesday.
“Fire trucks from the Palestinian Authority on their way to assist in battling the wildfire near Jerusalem. Thank you for the cooperation! Much appreciated,” Lapid tweeted, sharing a picture of a Palestinian fire truck.
Some 1,500 firefighters battled for 52 hours to subdue the flames at seven locations in the Judean Hills. The fire had scorched around 25,000 dunams (over 6,000 acres) of brush land and forest, according to the fire service.
In addition to 204 firefighting teams, 20 firefighter planes were used and residents were evacuated from multiple towns, including Ksalon, Beit Meir and Giv'at Ye’arim. The smoke from the fire could be seen as far as Bet Shemesh and darkened the skies over Jerusalem.
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While Prime Minister Naftali Bennett initially ordered officials to examine options for international assistance, the government decided not to seek help beyond that provided by the Palestinians, who sent four fire trucks from the West Bank.
Unlike Gantz and Lapid, Bennett did not publicly mention the role of the Palestinian Authority. Bennett did, however, flown over the fire zone to observe the damage and the operations of Israeli firefighting plane, a statement by his office released on Tuesday stated.
“On behalf of the citizens and government of Israel, I would like to thank you for your dedication and professionalism. You are doing amazing work, but it is not over until it is over,” he told the pilots as the fire was raging.
Following the outbreak of the blaze on Monday morning, Nissim Twito, the commander of Jerusalem's Fire and Rescue Services, said the fire was caused by people, but didn't specify whether it was deliberate arson or negligence. He also said that the fire started near the Burma Road, a makeshift pathway to Jerusalem built during the 1948 War of Independence.