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Palestinian Authority sends a team to help combat blazes

Israel accepts offer of four firetrucks; six countries have already sent planes and crews, with more on the way

Israeli and Palestinian firefighting teams on Thursday, November 24, 2016 (COGAT/Twitter)
Israeli and Palestinian firefighting teams on Thursday, November 24, 2016 (COGAT/Twitter)

A team of firefighters from the Palestinian Authority will join Israeli efforts to combat the blazes around the country, Israel confirmed Thursday night, saying four PA firetrucks would be arriving.

The PA’s director of civil defense, Maj. Gen. Yousef Nassar, said Thursday evening that fire crews were making final preparations before joining Israeli and international firefighters.

The official said that the PA made contact through the office of the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, and will send fire crews to combat the blazes around the country, according to the official Wafa news agency.

So far, seven countries have sent planes, a helicopter and crews to help combat the fires, which have escalated since Tuesday. Some 350 firefighters using 115 vehicles were working to contain the blazes in Haifa Thursday evening, Ynet reported.

“We still need additional help,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told journalists. “I want to thank the leaders of Russia, Italy, Greece, Croatia, Cyprus and Turkey [for their aid]. Another ten planes will arrive before midnight, including two large planes sent by President Putin.”

Netanyahu has also said that the US’s Evergreen Supertanker, the world’s largest firefighting plane, has been ordered to help deal with the fires. The tanker, which is a converted Boeing 747, will arrive in 28 hours.

Smoke billows from a house as a fire rages in the northern Israeli port city of Haifa on November 24, 2016. (AFP PHOTO / AHMAD GHARABLI)
Smoke billows from a house as a fire rages in the northern Israeli port city of Haifa on November 24, 2016. (AFP PHOTO / AHMAD GHARABLI)

It would not be the first time that Palestinian firefighters aided Israel. Nineteen Palestinian firefighters helped fight 2010’s deadly blaze in the Carmel forest. At first, Israeli security forces turned them down because, they said, they wouldn’t be able to spare soldiers to supervise them. But on the third morning of the fire, the Israelis changed their mind.

Within four hours, the 19 Palestinian firefighters were packed and on their way to the Carmel Forest. The 19 firefighters who assisted in the Carmel Fire were from Bethlehem, Ramallah and Jenin.

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