Israel’s Netanyahu welcomes foreign airplanes to fight raging fires

Israel's Netanyahu welcomes foreign airplanes to fight raging fires
A firefighting helicopter maneuvers around power lines and smoke to make a water drop during the Blue Cut fire at the Cajon Pass in San Bernardino County, California, U.S. August 17, 2016. REUTERS/Patrick T Fallon

Foreign fire-fighting airplanes arrived in Israel on Friday (November 25), to help efforts to tackle massive wildfires tearing through central and northern Israel.

Israel’s emergency teams have been boosted by support from Palestinian firefighters and teams from Greece, Cyprus, Croatia, Italy, Russia and Turkey.

A Turkish fire-fighting plane landed at Hatsor air base on Friday.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he had also accepted offers of help from Egypt and Jordan.

Speaking during a visit to the air base, Netanyahu repeated that he believed some of the fires were started with a political motive.

“There are elements of terror here, no doubt, elements with great hostility toward the state of Israel,” he told journalists.

Israeli police arrested 13 people on Friday on suspicion of arson.

Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said 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 told reporters 13 people were arrested.

Erdan said those arrested were “minorities”, an allusion to either Arab Israeli citizens or Palestinians. While Erdan told army radio that the highest likelihood is that the motive is nationalistic, police stopped short of declaring any motive.

There has been no official response from Palestinian leaders. But Ayman Odeh, a leading Israeli Arab politician from Haifa, rejected the suggestion Arabs were responsible for arson attacks and accused the Israeli government of taking advantage of the situation to incite against the Arab minority.

Unseasonably dry weather and easterly winds helped kindle the fires, which erupted on Tuesday and now stretch across half the country.

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