In phone call, Netanyahu thanks Palestinian President for help in fighting fires

Jerusalem: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has called Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to thank him for sending firefighting teams and trucks to help Israel put out fires.

A statement released by the PM’s Office said on Saturday that Netanyahu “appreciates the fact that Jews and Arabs have opened their homes for victims of the blazes”, Xinhua news agency reported.

The rare talk between Israeli and Palestinian leaders came as a string of massive fires have been raging for five days in Israel and its neighbours including the West Bank, Egypt and Lebanon.

Netanyahu and other right-wing leaders on Friday pointed the finger at Israeli Arabs, suggesting they committed “arson-terrorism”.

Palestinian leaders in response accused Netanyahu of “inciting” against Israel’s Arab minority.

On Sunday, 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.

Overnight between Friday and Saturday, the Palestinians sent two other trucks from Ramallah to help put out a fire in the Jewish West Bank settlement of Halamish, Israeli officials said.

The fire has damaged at least 40 settlement homes and lightly injured four.

Greece, Cyprus, Russia, Croatia, Turkey and Italy have also sent crews and planes to assist Israel in its efforts to fight the fires.

On Saturday afternoon, a Boeing-747 Supertanker, the world’s largest firefighting plane, was put to work in an area between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.

Experts said an unusually dry and windy weather condition has helped stoke the fires that broke out on Tuesday and spread across half of the country.