Israel appeals for international help in battling ravaging wildfires near Jerusalem

Officials are coordinating international assistance from Ministry of Foreign Affairs situation room, where appeals for help are being made to Greece, Cyprus, Italy, France and other countries.

By Atara Beck, World Israel News

As firefighters continue to battle the massive wildfire that resumed Monday in the Jerusalem hills and medics prepare to evacuate Hadassah Ein Kerem hospital, Israel is appealing to other countries for assistance.

The mammoth blaze, which police say was launched by arsonists, began Sunday afternoon. Approximately 10,000 people were evacuated Sunday from six communities in the forested Judean Hills just west of Jerusalem. Eitanim psychiatric hospital was also evacuated, and at least one patient is reported missing. Many homes were destroyed, as well as a winery that was burned to the ground.

It was believed late Sunday night that the fire had finally come under control, but on Monday it returned with a vengeance. According to the Israel Fire and Rescue Service, 75 firefighting teams accompanied by 12 planes were working to control the fires.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett held an assessment of the situation late Monday afternoon that included the defense minister, the Public Security minister, the Israel Police Inspector General, the Fire and Rescue Service Commissioner, the head of the National Security Council, the Cabinet Secretary, the Prime Minister’s Office Director General, the Prime Minister’s Military Secretary, the Jerusalem District Police Commander and other senior officials.

Bennett directed the Defense Ministry and the IDF to continue giving all necessary assistance to the firefighting and rescue efforts. He also ordered an evaluation into whether there are additional Air Force capabilities that could be utilized in the effort to bring the fire under control.

The Prime Minister instructed the Public Security Minister, together with the National Security Council, to consider appealing for international assistance in extinguishing the fires.

Foreign Affairs Minister Yair Lapid contacted his Greek counterpart, Nikos Dendias, with a request for air assistance in battling the wildfires and received a response that Greece would assist as much possible. Israel had recently sent help to Greece earlier this month when it was fighting its own wildfires.

Officials are coordinating international assistance from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs situation room, where appeals for help are being made to Greece, Cyprus, Italy, France and other countries, in cooperation with the Ministry of Public Security.

The need for firefighting aircraft for Tuesday morning was emphasized by Fire and Rescue Commissioner Dedi Simchi in conversation with Lapid.