Firefighting planes arrive as Turkey, Russia promise more help
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Firefighting planes arrive as Turkey, Russia promise more help

Bombardier planes fly in from Greece, allowing firefighters to drop more retardant on spreading blazes than local fleet allows

Firefighting planes from Greece arrived in Israel on November 24, 2016 to help douse scrub and forest fires across the country. (Courtesy: Ministry of Public Security)
Firefighting planes from Greece arrived in Israel on November 24, 2016 to help douse scrub and forest fires across the country. (Courtesy: Ministry of Public Security)

Four planes from Greece and Cyprus landed in Israel Thursday to help beat back a rash of wildfires as Turkey and Russia said they would also send aircraft to aid Israel.

The aid from Turkey, the first in years, came as ties between Jerusalem and Ankara have thawed in recent months.

Turkey contacted Israel and offered the planes and Israel accepted, according to a statement from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office Thursday.

“Prime Minister Netanyahu said he appreciates the offer and aid from the Turkish government,” a statement from the PMO said.

At the same time, Russian President Vladimir Putin told Netanyahu he would send two massive aircraft to to help Israeli fire services douse some 200 brush fires all over the country.

A plane flies tries to extinguish wildfires in Haifa, Israel, Thursday, November 24, 2016. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)
A plane flies tries to extinguish wildfires in Haifa, Israel, Thursday, November 24, 2016. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)

The aid came in response to a telephone request Putin received Thursday from Netanyahu.

The Beriev aircraft will join four planes from Greece and Cyprus that touched down in Israel Thursday to strengthen the firefighting effort.

In all, Israel is set to receive 10 planes to boost its fleet of mostly light planes used for dropping retardant on fires.

Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan touted the international aid as a sign of Israel’s close ties with its neighbors.

The Hercules - one of four aircraft that arrived from Greece and Cyprus to Israel on November 24, 2016, to help local firefighters gain control of blazes throughout the country. (Courtesy: Police spokesperson's office)
The Hercules – one of four aircraft that arrived from Greece and Cyprus to Israel on November 24, 2016, to help local firefighters gain control of blazes throughout the country. (Courtesy: Police spokesperson’s office)

“The mobilization of neighboring countries to help us so quickly demonstrates the depth of relations between those countries and Israel. Cooperation in the air will be a vital element in controlling the fires,” he said while visiting the Hatzor Israeli Air Force base in central Israel.

The Greek and Cypriot aircraft — which arrived with a 49-strong crew — comprise two Bombadiers and a Hercules from Greece and an air tractor from Cyprus.

A picture taken on November 24, 2016 shows a bushfire raging in the northern Israeli port city of Haifa. Hundreds of Israelis fled their homes on the outskirts of the country's third city Haifa with others trapped inside as firefighters struggled to control raging bushfires, officials said. (AFP PHOTO / Jack GUEZ)
A picture taken on November 24, 2016 shows a bushfire raging in the northern Israeli port city of Haifa. Hundreds of Israelis fled their homes on the outskirts of the country’s third city Haifa with others trapped inside as firefighters struggled to control raging bushfires, officials said. (AFP PHOTO / Jack GUEZ)

The planes are able to carry larger amounts of fire retardant than local aircraft and can also fly despite the high winds sweeping the country.

The aid came as fresh blazes threatened homes in a number of spots across the country, including Haifa, which evacuated several neighborhoods, and the West Bank settlement of Talmon, where a number of homes and cars were damaged.

Police suspect negligence and possibly arson as the cause for the fires, bolstered by high winds and unseasonably dry conditions.

Erdan urged the public not to light fires in open areas until the current period of strong, dry winds ends — probably on Tuesday. He also said more police would be stationed in open areas close to communities to prevent fires spreading and ensure there were no incidents of arson.

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