International community offering its help: Israeli authorities are expecting to receive more than 20 firefighting aircraft Thursday night from Britain, France, Romania, Greece, Cyprus, Spain, Croatia, Azerbaijan and Russia to help in the effort to contain the northern blaze that claimed at least 40 lives.
Despite the great diplomatic tensions vis-à-vis Israel, Turkish officials announced that they too will be sending two firefighting airplanes. Egypt also pledged to send a plane to help battle the blaze. Later Thursday, Jordan and Bulgaria said they are willing to send firefighting teams to help contain the fire. Italy also said it would offer assistance.
Early Friday, US President Barack Obama offered his condolences to families of the 40 victims in Thursday’s blaze.
Obama also offered American assistance in containing the blaze,
Earlier Thursday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu approached Russia, Italy, Greece and Cyprus and asked for firefighting aircraft to be sent to Israel. Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman instructed Israel's ambassadors in the United States, Europe and Jordan to look into possible ways these countries could assist Israel.
The Foreign Ministry also opened a situation room that will maintain regular contact with states that offer their help.
Meanwhile, communities and residents across Israel are preparing to host Israelis whose homes were damaged in the massive blaze.
"As a community that experienced difficult periods, we wish to enlist for the cause and assist the families in their difficult hour as much as we can," said Nissim Malka, mayor of the border town of Kiryat Shmona. "We'll make guestrooms available to them and also enlist the help of families interested in hosting them for the entire weekend."
Meanwhile, officials at the Meron HaGalil regional council sent volunteers to offer their help in battling the fire. The local council head, Amit Sofer, said that guestrooms and bed and breakfasts in the area are prepared to host families who wish to stay there until the situation clears up.
"We are looking into the possibility of preparing sports venues at educational facilities to take in a large number of families that would be able to sleep and eat there," he said. "This is the little we can do at this difficult time."
Elsewhere, the Yesha Council has also set up an operation to take in families evacuated from their northern homes. Several compounds had been prepared to that end at various Judea and Samaria communities.
In addition, the Ramat HaSharon city hall north of Tel Aviv opened an emergency call center for northern residents.
Yoav Zitun, Hanan Greenberg, Yair Altman, Hagai Einav and Raanan Ben-Zur and AFP contributed to the story