Israel's Netanyahu welcomes foreign airplanes to fight raging fires

Israel's Netanyahu welcomes foreign airplanes to fight raging fires

The Palestinian fire department sent three firefighting vehicles from Ramallah to help the Israeli forces to put out the fire, as the entire 1,000-people community of the settlement of Halamish was evacuated.

Firefighters had most of the dozens of fires under control by Friday, allowing thousands of people to return to their homes in the northern port city of Haifa, one of the areas that was hit hardest.

Some 45 homes there were damaged or destroyed by fire, police said.

On Thursday, the Palestinian National Authority sent eight firefighting trucks through the Gilboa Mountains to help Israel fight the massive fire in Haifa, which has consumed about 9,880 acres of land and prompted the evacuation of a quarter of the city's population.

Israel has requested and accepted help from a number of nations as it battles the blazes, and Palestinian and Israeli fire crews have been working side by side to extinguish fires near Jerusalem and in northern Israel.

Israel called up hundreds of military reservists to join overstretched police and firefighters and was making use of an global fleet of firefighting aircraft sent by several countries.

The last of the major fires were doused Saturday, with only a few small blazes quickly extinguished since then. Netanyahu told reporters Friday that "a price will be paid for this arson-terrorism" which he said was perpetrated by "elements with great hostility toward Israel".

Police have arrested 23 people suspected of lighting fires or inciting arson, and interrogated another seven.

The Israeli authorities suspect that some of the fires may have been of criminal origin and linked to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict - Israeli media have dubbed the wildfires the "Arson Intifada", although there is no indication that the fires, if deliberate, were coordinated.

"Ten additional residents, who inhaled smoke, were also treated by our teams, among them a baby of about four months and two teenagers of about 16, who injured themselves, while escaping the heavy smoke".

A wildfire roared through parts of Israel's third-largest city yesterday, forcing tens of thousands of people to evacuate their homes.

Israel's police chief, Roni Alsheich, said arrests had been made, without elaborating.

Most of the fires were caused by the weather and incidents of negligence, though officials have pointed to arson for at least some of them.

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

A Palestinian member of the Israeli Knesset accused NetanyahArab-Israelisu of achieving "political gains out of an unfortunate state of events".

Israeli police said about 100 families were being evacuated from the area, as the fire spun out of control.

"Only those to whom the country does not belong are capable of burning it", he said in a tweet in Hebrew.