Israel Braces for More Wildfires, Greece Sends Two Firefighting Aircrafts

Fire fighters extinguish a forests fire near Kfar Uriya, Thursday, May 23, 2019. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)

JERUSALEM (AP) — Israel braced for renewed wildfires Friday amid a major heat wave that shows no signs of abating.

At an emergency briefing, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel had appealed for international help to combat the fires, and that aid has arrived from Greece, Croatia, Italy, Egypt and Cyprus.

Israel “really appreciates” the help, Netanyahu said, singling out Egypt’s President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi for pitching in with two helicopters. He added that several others, including Russia and the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank, offered aid.

“I am deeply thankful for the readiness of neighbors to help us in a time of crisis, just as we help them,” Netanyahu said.

Thousands of people were evacuated from towns and dozens of homes were torched Thursday as fires raged, fueled by high temperatures and dry conditions. Over 500 acres of woodland have burned, said Nitai Zecharya, an Israeli official from the Jewish National Fund, known for planting forests in the country.

Smoke rises as a wildfire rages near Kibbutz Harel, Israel Thursday, May 23, 2019. Israeli police have ordered the evacuation of several communities in southern and central Israel as wildfires rage amid a major heatwave. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)

Zecharya said that while firefighters had brought most of the blaze under control, officials remained “very stressed” about strong winds fanning flames and “spreading fires to other fronts.”

The cause of wildfire remains unclear, but it erupted following the Jewish festival of Lag Ba’Omer, which observers mark with bonfires.

A sweltering heat wave is pushing temperatures in parts of the country up to 110 degrees Fahrenheit, or 43 Celsius.

Greece sends two firefighting aircraft to help put out Israel’s wildfires

Greece responded immediately to Israel’s request for assistance in fighting the major forest wildfires that have been raging in Israel since Thursday, resulting in one person’s death and the evacuation of approximately 3,500 residences.

A Canadair firefighting aircraft took off from Elefsina airport on Friday morning while another is scheduled to depart during the day to participate in the operations underway to get the blazes under control.

According to the general secretariat for civil protection, the Greek aircraft are expected to join the fire-fighting operations in Israel in the afternoon.

Israel’s request to Greece for assistance was sent to the Greek foreign ministry on Thursday, in the context of bilateral cooperation between the two countries. The fires in Israel have quickly blazed out of control due to very high temperatures and strong winds in the region at this time.

Sources: AP, ANA

Smoke rises as a wildfire rages near in Kfar Uriya, Thursday, May 23, 2019. Israeli police have ordered the evacuation of several communities in southern and central Israel as wildfires rage amid a major heatwave. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)
Fire fighters extinguish a forests fire near Kfar Uriya, Thursday, May 23, 2019. Israeli police have ordered the evacuation of several communities in southern and central Israel as wildfires rage amid a major heatwave. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)
Smoke rises as a wildfire rages near in Kfar Uriya, Thursday, May 23, 2019. Israeli police have ordered the evacuation of several communities in southern and central Israel as wildfires rage amid a major heatwave. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)