TEL AVIV – Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu thanked Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Saturday evening for Palestinian assistance in battling wildfires that have raged throughout the country since Tuesday, forcing tens of thousands to evacuate their homes.
The Palestinian Authority sent 40 firefighters and eight fire trucks to help douse the fires, alongside firefighting equipment sent by Israel’s neighboring Arab allies.
The prime minister also told Abbas of his appreciation for the cooperation between Jews and Arabs on the ground, many of whom opened their homes to those in need of temporary shelter.
Jordan and Egypt joined Croatia, Turkey, Italy, Russia, Cyprus, Bulgaria and the U.S. in the firefighting efforts, sending trucks and helicopters.
The Muslim-majority nation of Azerbaijan announced over the weekend that it sent BE-200CS amphibious aircraft to Israel.
The solidarity came as a welcome counter to multiple reports alleging that many of the fires were nationalistically-motivated arson and the celebratory battle cries sweeping Arabic-language social media in which “Israel is burning” became the highest trending hashtag in recent days.
“Fire doesn’t distinguish between Jews and Arabs,” Member of Knesset Ayman Odeh, chairman of the Joint Arab List party, said Thursday.
Opposition leader Isaac Herzog also showed his appreciation to the Palestinian Authority for its help, noting that the cooperation was “proof that there are those interested in suppressing terrorism, who have a true desire for cooperation and coexistence in the region.”
The Zionist Union chief added that “from this tragedy, there is a glimmer of hope that things can be different” and also thanked the “dozens of firefighters and aerial firefighting teams, sent from around the world who helped to “sav[e] the lives of thousands of Israelis who were imminently threatened as the flames spread.”
“Among them, 44 Palestinian firefighters, who have today completed their mission after three days of fighting fire on several fronts, stood shoulder to shoulder with our firefighters, risking their lives to assist. They were highly praised for their actions, and we are grateful for their assistance, and that of all the firefighters and pilots from around the world who helped us,” Herzog said.
Palestinian firefighter Muhammad Amayra praised his Israeli peers for their response to the help.
“The Israeli firefighters welcomed us very nicely,” Amayra told Army radio. “They helped us with everything, and always asked if we needed anything. Israeli firefighters are excellent firefighters. Maybe they lack big things like planes or supertankers but they are excellent firefighters.”
Amayra said he was moved when Israeli parents with children came out to shake hands with the firefighters, thanking them for their efforts “in Hebrew and Arabic and all the languages.”
“That gave us a great feeling and it gave me hope that in the future we will be alright,” he said.