The Jerusalem Post
December 6, 2010 - 1:00am

Firefighters and firefighting personnel from all over the world came to Israel's aid over the weekend, responding to the most devastating fire the country has ever seen. While most of the aid that arrived had to be flown in, early Sunday morning, four fire engines manned by 21 firefighters began a five-hour drive to the Carmel mountains.

Leaving the southern West Bank at 4 a.m., the Bethlehem civil defense team spent five hours driving through Israel before joining up with Israeli and international firefighters battling the deadly blaze that has destroyed over 12,000 acres (50,000 dunams) and killed at least 41 people since Thursday.

Turkey offers assistance in Carmel fire despite tensions
Fire warms up ties with Turkey

The Palestinian firetrucks are more advanced than Israel's, Channel 10 News reported. The modern firetrucks were reportedly a gift from the European Union, which contributed millions of dollars to establish a Palestinian firefighting force.

Bethlehem Civil Defense Chief Ibrahim Ayish told Palestinian news agency Ma'an that it was good to work alongside the Israeli teams, because they "know the area very well."

Arriving at nine in the morning on Sunday, Ayish said, "We were received respectfully." He added, "After all, we're dealing with a humanitarian issue which knows no borders," Ma'an reported.

"We hope that we will have a major role in fighting the fire and in the humanitarian effort on Mount Carmel," a Palestinian firefighter told Channel 10. "It's, like, peace."

When asked by Israel Radio how they felt about fighting a fire in Israel, the Palestinians responded that it was partly a humanitarian work, partly their job as firefighters, and that they believe Israel would help in the same way should the Palestinians ever find themselves in a similar situation.

Jordanian firefighters were also sent to help fight the Carmel fire on the ground.

Also on Sunday, Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh told Reuters that the fires ravaging northern Israel are God's expression of anger towards Israelis,

"These are plagues from God," said Haniyeh in a recorded Reuters video interview during Sunday prayers in Gaza. "Allah is punishing them [the Israelis] from a place they did not expect it."

In contrast, after nearly a year of deteriorating relations, Turkey sent fire-fighting planes and equipment on Friday, perhaps symbolizing a humanitarian reminder that the two countries were long-time allies.


American Task Force on Palestine - 1634 Eye St. NW, Suite 725, Washington DC 20006 - Telephone: 202-262-0017