Britain sends RAF helicopters to help Israel battle Carmel fire

Benjamin Netanyahu thanked David Cameron for sending aid

Benjamin Netanyahu thanked David Cameron for sending aid

Britain has sent two RAF helicopters to aid Israeli firefighters attempting to control a forest fire that has spread across parts of northern Israel.

The helicopters, which are already on the ground in Israel, are equipped with large buckets to take water from the sea and spread it over the affected area. They have already made two flights and are about to set off on a third.

One of the helicopters was already nearby, in Palmachim, and within 16 minutes of the alert going out on Thursday evening had been flown in to help. The other was immediately dispatched from Cyprus, and a third is on its way.

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu thanked David Cameron for sending help and has called on more countries to send assistance. Several, including Bulgaria and Greece have already sent help. Turkey, whose relations with Israel have been strained in the past months, is also sending aid, and the Palestinian Authority has offered assistance.

After visiting the region, near Israel’s third city of Haifa, Mr Netanyahu described the blaze as an "unprecedented disaster" and a “hard blow” for the country.

Experts have called it the worst forest fire in Israel’s history, and there are concerns that it will to continue to rage over the weekend.

Mr Netanyahu said: "We are harnessing all the forces of the state to deal with this disaster and rescue those who are injured and to stop the fire.

"We don't want any more injuries, any more dead, not even one."

The Board of Deputies of British Jews applauded the government’s strong reaction to this tragedy.

They said: "Together with the people of Israel...the Jewish community of the United Kingdom mourn the immense national tragedy created by the Carmel forest fires.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with Israel and particularly with the families of the victims."

A spokeswoman from the Foreign Office said: “We were concerned to hear of the forest fire in Israel and our thoughts are with the families of those killed or injured in the fire.”

Last updated: 11:57am, December 3 2010