Turkey sends aid to Israel to fight fire across country
Sevil Erkuş - ANKARA
REUTERS photoTurkey sent fire-fighting aircraft to Israel on Nov. 24 to combat a fire that has broken out across the country, Foreign Ministry officials have told the Hürriyet Daily News, adding that Tel Aviv accepted Ankara’s offer to provide assistance.
A strong easterly wind whipped up forest and bush fires across Israel and the West Bank on Nov. 24, temporarily forcing the closure of a highway between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.
A lack of rain combined with very dry air and strong easterly winds spread the fires across central and northern Israel this week, as well as parts of the Israeli-occupied West Bank. Scores of homes have been damaged or destroyed, although no deaths or serious injuries have been reported.
Israel has also requested aerial firefighting support from Croatia, Greek Cyprus, Greece, Italy and Russia, Israeli police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said.
“Thank you Cyprus, Croatia, Greece, Italy, Russia, Turkey, Romania & Bulgaria for sending help to fight the fires in Israel. True friends!,” Israeli Foreign Ministry said in a tweet.
Rosenfeld said police were investigating all possible causes, including arson.
Israel has ordered the evacuation of thousands of people and called up hundreds of military reservists to battle a spreading fire in the northern city of Haifa.
Police said at least eight neighborhoods had been evacuated by early afternoon, as smoke spread over the city. At least 17 people were hospitalized for smoke inhalation.
Police and firefighters were deployed throughout the city, as people loaded up supermarket carts with belongings and fled their homes. Some people connected hoses together from apartment buildings to help battle the fires, while residents covered their faces with cloths.
The Haifa fire is the largest of several blazes to have erupted across the country since Nov. 23. The fires have quickly spread due to dry weather and heavy winds.
The rash of fires is the worst since 2010, when Israel suffered the single deadliest wildfire in its history. Turkey had sent fire-fighting aircraft to Israel in December 2010 despite the Mavi Marmara crisis that happened in May of that year.
The assistance from Turkey comes after a recent rapprochement between Turkey and Israel. Relations crumbled after Israeli marines stormed an activist ship in May 2010 to enforce a naval blockade of the Hamas-run Gaza Strip, killing 10 Turks on board.
Israel later apologized for the 2010 raid on the Mavi Marmara activist ship, paying out $20 million to the bereaved and injured.