06:04 GMT09 July 2020
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    Two Russian Be-200 amphibious aircraft have begun extinguishing wildfires in Israel at Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's request.

    MOSCOW (Sputnik) — Two Russian Emergencies Ministry Be-200 amphibious aircraft have started extinguishing wildfires in Israel, including around Jerusalem, a senior ministry official said Friday.

    "By agreement with the Israeli authorities, two Emergencies Ministry aircraft are extinguishing fires in three regions of the country," including around Haifa and Carmel, Sergei Vorontsov, deputy chief of the ministry's National Crisis Management Center, said.

    Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu earlier requested Russia's assistance in a phone call with President Vladimir Putin in battling the wildfires.

    The Beriev Be-200 is well suited to firefighting missions. It can take in up to 12.5 metric tons of water in the space of a few seconds while traveling over a body of water before dropping the load on the flames.

    Vorontsov said several countries were assisting Israel in the fight against wildfires, which have been subsiding near Haifa but getting stronger around Jerusalem. Russian crews are tasked with protecting residential areas and cultural treasures, he added.

    Planes from the United States, Italy, Greece, Cyprus and Croatia are also involved. The wildfires flared up three days ago and are considered to be the worst in Israel’s history since 2010.

    Earlier in the day, Israeli police arrested 12 people on suspicion of starting the fires. One of them was identified as a Bedouin tribesman, prompting Israeli Education Minister Naftali Bennett to claim the alleged arson could have been committed by those, to whom the country did not belong.


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