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August 17, 2021 1:11 pm
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Palestinian Firefighters Aid Israeli Forces in Taking Control of Massive Jerusalem Hills Wildfire

avatar by Sharon Wrobel

Firefighters work inside the Israeli village of Givat Yearim during wildfire in the area, outskirts of Jerusalem, August 16, 2021. REUTERS/ Ronen Zvulun

Palestinian firefighters helped Israeli forces to gain full control of the massive forest fire that broke out around the hills of Jerusalem on Sunday, drawing words of gratitude from Israeli officials.

Firefighters belonging to the Palestinian Authority made their way to Jerusalem on Tuesday to assist Israeli firefighters in battling the ongoing blaze around the forest-covered hills outside Jerusalem, which caused multiple communities to be evacuated. The PA sent 20 firefighters and four firefighting trucks for the effort.

“I would like to thank PA Chairman [Mahmoud] Abbas for his initiative to send the firefighters who came to assist Israel today,” Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz said Tuesday. “Mutual care and saving human lives are common interests to us all.”

Israel agreed to accept the PA’s assistance offer after Foreign Minister Yair Lapid and Israeli Fire and Rescue Authority announced that there was ultimately no need for international help in extinguishing the flames.

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“After assessing the situation, it was decided that there is no need for international assistance in extinguishing the fires in the Jerusalem hills,” Lapid said Tuesday. “I would like to thank all the countries that have agreed to come and help. Israel is here for them for any assistance. Our firefighters have been working very hard for long days in difficult conditions.”

In 2010, Palestinian and Israeli firefighters joined forces to battle one of Israel’s worst-ever natural disasters, the Carmel forest fire.

According to the Israeli Fire and Rescue Authority, the fire — which broke out on Sunday close to Moshav Beit Meir — quickly spread due to strong winds blowing in the area. About 110 Israeli firefighter teams from all over the country, including  teams of officers’ course cadets, have been working around the clock to control the blaze. Additionally, 14 firefighting aircraft of the Elad Squadron took off to assist forces on the ground. They operate at active fire hotspots, especially around Mount Eitan, Wadi Tsuba and Givat Yaarim.

“Day by day, the damage from the disaster will become clearer to us. Beyond the severe damage to property and health, there are huge damages and threats to the environment,” said Israel’s Environmental Protection Minister Tamar Zandberg. “Entire functioning ecosystems were completely destroyed, and many animals died in the flames. The destruction here is unimaginable, and there is no doubt that nature in the Jerusalem hills will find it very difficult to rehabilitate itself.”

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