Israel sends team to help battle Ethiopian mountain blaze
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Israel sends team to help battle Ethiopian mountain blaze

11 firefighters and experts, led by Ethiopia-born Zion Shenkar, dispatched after local government says it cannot control flames in rugged Simien Mountains, near Gondar

Baboons watch as smoke envelopes the Simien mountains in Ethiopia, in a video shared on April 11. (screen capture: Twitter/@ahackz)
Baboons watch as smoke envelopes the Simien mountains in Ethiopia, in a video shared on April 11. (screen capture: Twitter/@ahackz)

Israel on Saturday dispatched a team of firefighters to help squelch a blaze raging in Ethiopia’s Simien Mountain range.

The delegation, which landed in Addis Ababa Sunday morning, consists of 11 firefighters and rescue officials, including an expert in aerial firefighting, according to Israel’s Fire and Rescue Service and the Foreign Ministry.

It is being led by Zion Shenkar, who was born in Ethiopia and was the Israel Defense Force’s first-ever battalion commander from the Ethiopian community.

The Foreign Ministry said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered the team be assembled after receiving a request for aid by Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed during a conversation Friday.

The Simien Mountain fire has been burning for several days, and is the second major fire to strike the lush highlands in the country’s north in two weeks.

שריפות יער גדולות מתחוללות בפארק הרי סאמיאן ליד גונדר באתיופיה.כבאות והצלה לישראל תשגר הלילה משלחת לוחמי אש, מפקדים…

פורסם על ידי ‏כבאות והצלה לישראל Israel Fire & Rescue Authority‏ ב- יום שבת, 13 באפריל 2019

The mountains are near the city of Gondar, home to most of Ethiopia’s remaining Jewish community.

Members of the Falash Mura Jewish Ethiopian community wait for prayer service before attending the Passover seder meal, in the synagogue in Gondar, Ethiopia, April 22, 2016. (Miriam Alster/FLASH90)

The fire has proved difficult to extinguish because of the rugged terrain, threatening wildlife and nature, according to local reports.

The Simien Mountains National Park, a popular tourist destination, is home to the rare Waliya ibex and Gelada baboon.

Park administrator Abebaw Azanew said the fire was moving quickly and swiftly engulfing grasslands, according to the 7d news website.

A tourist watches Gelada baboons in the Simien Mountains of Ethiopia in this November 30 2012 picture. (AP)

On Saturday, regional president Ambachew Mekonnen asked for additional help, saying local crews had been unable to control the fire, according to the Addis Standard online news source.

France and Kenya have also pledged to send help battling the blaze, according to the news site.

A fire in the same area in late March burned for five days before local crews and volunteers managed to put it out.

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