Israel thanks Turkey for helping to fight wildfires

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A picture taken on November 24, 2016 shows a fire raging in the northern Israeli port city of Haifa. Hundreds of Israelis fled their homes on the outskirts of the country's third city Haifa with others trapped inside as firefighters struggled to control raging bushfires, officials said. AHMAD GHARABLI / AFP

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu thanked Turkey for sending specialized aircraft to help extinguish wildfires that ravaged the central and northern parts of Israel on Thursday.

Wildfires tore across central and northern Israel on Thursday, forcing tens of thousands of residents to flee the city of Haifa, as leaders blamed arsonists for some of the blazes and branded them as “terrorists.”

“Every fire that was caused by arson, or incitement to arson, is terrorism by all accounts. And we will treat it as such,” Prime Minister Netanyahu told reporters gathered in Haifa.

Along with Turkey, Greece, Cyprus, Croatia and Russia offered help, with several aircraft already joining efforts to quell the blaze, dropping fire-retardant material to try to douse the heaviest fires and stem their spread. Netanyahu said he had asked for a “Super Tanker” fire fighting aircraft to be sent from the United States.

The fires have been burning in multiple locations for the past three days as it started early Tuesday morning at Neve Shalom, a community outside Jerusalem where Israelis and Arabs live together, but intensified on Thursday, fueled by unseasonably dry weather and strong easterly winds.

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