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Israel Foresees End to Deadly Forest Fire

  • Robert Berger

An Israeli firefighter takes a break as he fights a blaze in the youth village (boarding school) of Yemin OrdE, near the northern city of Haifa, Israel, 05 Dec 2010

An Israeli firefighter takes a break as he fights a blaze in the youth village (boarding school) of Yemin OrdE, near the northern city of Haifa, Israel, 05 Dec 2010

Israel hopes to bring a four-day-old wildfire that has killed 41 people under control by the end of the day.

An American 747 "Supertanker" has joined the battle against the biggest forest fire in Israel's history, giving a boost to an international effort that began last Thursday. Unlike other aircraft, the 747 can fly at night, enabling fire-fighting operations from the air to continue around the clock.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has welcomed the addition of new tools and the assistance in general.

"These are mega-fires, they are huge, gigantic forest fires, and they require a different technology; they require international cooperation."

About 20 countries have sent planes and equipment to fight the flames that have consumed more than 5,000 hectares of the Carmel Forest in northern Israel. And despite the stalled peace process, the Palestinians sent three fire engines and crews in a rare sign of cooperation.

"I have to tell you that asking for help, and giving help, are two parts of the same equation. In the global village, this is what countries do."

On what became another day of mourning in Israel, there were funerals for 27 of the 41 known victims. Most of them were rescue workers whose bus was trapped in the flames.

Two teenage brothers were arrested Saturday on suspicion that they caused the fire through negligence, not arson. Media reports say the boys had failed to snuff out a campfire or water pipe they had been smoking.

Israel was caught woefully unprepared for the blaze, which has forced the evacuation of 17,000 people. There is growing criticism of the government and calls for some officials to resign. One Israeli Cabinet minister wondered how an “advanced and sophisticated country” was capable of what he called, "such a resounding failure."

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