Sixty-nine firefighters from Cyprus arrived in Israel on Saturday morning, to bolster their Israeli counterparts stretched to their limit by the hundreds of fires that have burned across the country for five days.
Cyprus, along with Bulgaria, Greece, Croatia, Italy, Turkey and Russia, has already sent planes to help with the efforts to battle the blazes, some of which have caused severe damage to communities and cities.
The head of the Palestinian Authority fire service, Yousef Nasser, was also due in Israel on Saturday morning, in a sign of appreciation for the assistance his firefighters provided.
Israeli crews were joined Thursday night by eight PA fire trucks and 40 firefighters, who joined the battle to contain massive blazes in Haifa and at Sha’ar Hagai on the outskirts of Jerusalem.
Palestinian firefighters from Ramallah also swung into action in the early hours of Saturday to help douse the flames at the West Bank settlement of Halamish, where dozens of houses were damaged or destroyed.
Nasser will tour the Fire Service command centers at Neve Ilan, near Jerusalem and in Rishon Lezion, as well as visit his firefighters working alongside their Israeli counterparts, the Ynet news website reported.
The European Union’s foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said Friday that the EU is pleased to offer its support to Israel.
“We stand by the Israeli people and authorities at this time of need. Not only in words but with concrete support,” Mogherini said, according to a series of tweets Friday by the EU’s mission to Israel.
“I’m pleased that EU Member States are showing their solidarity in action,” she said. “We will continue to be in close contact with [Israeli] authorities to mobilize further offers of assistance as required.”
EU Ambassador to Israel Lars Faaborg-Andersen also expressed concern as tens of thousands were evacuated to escape the fires threatening their homes. “My thoughts are with brave fire crews and thousands of ordinary people affected,” he said, according to the EU mission.
A massive US-based supertanker, a converted Boeing 747 that can operate at night, arrived late Friday to join the international contingent already assisting Israeli firefighting forces. The blazes, some of which were allegedly set by arsonists, have been fueled by unusually dry conditions and strong winds.
Israel has expressed its appreciation for the EU assistance, posting a message of thanks on Twitter to “our European friends.”
— Israel in the EU (@IsraelinEU) November 24, 2016
Jordan and Egypt have also joined the host of nations sending assistance. Both of the Arab neighbors with which Israel has peace treaties offered help and Israel accepted, the Prime Minister’s Office said Friday. Jordan will send fire trucks and Egypt two firefighting helicopters.
The show of solidarity from Egypt, Jordan and the PA was a welcome sign after many Arabic-speaking social media users in Israel and abroad have cheered on the fires, causing the Arabic-language hashtag label “Israel is burning” to reach the third-most trending tag on Twitter in several Arab countries.
Raphael Ahren contributed to this report