Israel accepts Palestinian help to combat wildfires
Israel has accepted an offer of help from the Palestinian authorities to tackle the wildfires that have engulfed large areas of central and northern parts of the country.
The crisis has forced tens of thousands of people to flee their homes as flames have swept into the country’s third largest city of Haifa.
Four Palestinian firefighting teams will join the effort to combat the fires.
A senior Israeli official told daily newspaper Haaretz that Israel’s Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories will oversee the cooperation between the Palestinian and the Israeli fire crews.
Russia, Turkey, Greece, Italy, Croatia and Cyprus are all also helping fight the blaze, while America has agreed to send a Boeing 747 “Supertanker” firefighting plane.
Israel’s chief of police has blamed the fires on arson attacks, while Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said such an attack would be treated as terrorism.
Israeli police said on Friday they had arrested 12 people on suspicion of arson.
Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld told Reuters a dozen people had been detained either while attempting to set fires or fleeing the area, but he provided no further details.
Internal Security Minister Gilad Erdan said they were “minorities”, an allusion to either Arab Israeli citizens or Palestinians.
“The highest likelihood is that the motive is nationalistic,” Mr Erdan told Army Radio.
The flames, which have raged since Tuesday, have been fanned by strong winds during an exceptionally dry period.
At least 130 people have been injured as the fires have spread, mostly from smoke inhalation. None were thought to be in a life-threatening condition.
Independent News Service