Israel seeks help from abroad to battle fires

Israel seeks help from abroad to battle fires

Israel is seeking international help to battle wildfires outside Jerusalem that have forced hundreds to evacuate and sent clouds of smoke billowing over the city, the foreign ministry said on Monday.

Planes and crews fought the blaze for a second day as strong winds and dry heat assisted its spread in wooded hills some 10 km (6 miles) west of Jerusalem. Medics said some people had been treated for smoke inhalation but reported no serious injuries.

Israel's Fire and Rescue Authority said 75 crews and 10 planes were battling the blaze, which the country's internal security minister said had burned at least 4,200 acres (17,000 hectares). Several hillside communities were evacuated.

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid contacted his counterpart in Greece, where wildfires are currently raging, on Monday and requested air support to help put out the blaze near Jerusalem, the foreign ministry said in a statement.

Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias said Greece "would help as much as it could," the statement said.

Israel is also requesting help from Cyprus, Italy, France and others, the statement added.

The commissioner of Israel's Fire and Rescue Authority earlier announced a general mobilisation for personnel to help battle the blaze, Reuters reported.

In a meeting with fire and rescue officials late on Sunday, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said he was concerned the blaze could reach Jerusalem's western localities, including the area of Ein Kerem, home to Israel's Hadassah Medical Center.

"Fire brigades are preparing a defensive position there," Bennett said, warning that while he was hopeful crews would bring the blaze under control, "fires and winds have a capricious dynamic."

An investigation has been launched into the cause of the fires, the Fire and Rescue Authority said.

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