WATCH: Friends in need: Many countries send firefighting aircraft to Israel
With fires blazing across the country, Israel asks for help from its neighbors near and far; from the Palestinian Authority, who was the first to offer aid, to the United States, who sent the largest firefighting aircraft in the world, Israel's call for assistance was heeded; Greek pilot: 'We see the people and understand that we're really saving their lives. And there's no better feeling than that… It's always good to help a friend in trouble.'
Twenty-one firefighting planes aided Israel in fighting the fires that swept the country. Saturday, planes from Turkey were documented drew water off the coast of Netanya, and other country's similar efforts were also recorded over Haifa and the Jerusalem Mountains, including the American Supertanker, the largest aerial ישfirefighting craft in the work, which helped extinguish the blaze in Nataf.
The first planes that reached Israel from abroad were three from the Hellenic Republic. Greek Maj. Stelios Kokoridis, a pilot who had previously fought fires in Israel during the 2010 Carmel conflagration, said, "We're dumping water from a height of 30 meters, and at this height, we see the people and understand that we're really saving their lives. And there's no better feeling than that. We fought fires in Israel with the same determinedness with which we fight fires in Greece. I feel like I'm fighting a fire in my home, as if I'm now in Greece. It's always good to help a friend in trouble; it's a shame that we meet each other in bad times like this."
Two planes from Croatia and also planes from Azerbaijan and Ukraine worked in the area of fires in Neve Ilan and Nataf. Egypt sent two firefighting helicopters.
According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Spain also sent planes, and Belarus, Britain, Bulgaria, Czechia, Georgia, Portugal, Romania and Switzerland all offered their assistance.
The American Supertanker,
a Boeing 747-400, came from Colorado Springs
in the US. It took off from Ben Gurion Airport shortly after 3pm and remained in the air for about two hours. It took off towards the north, circled over the sea for about 40 minutes—during which time the Israel Police and firefighting services argued over employing it—then flew south and turned towards Jerusalem. It dumped flame retardant in the Nataf forest before returning to Ben Gurion. The Supertanker being the only aircraft capable of fighting fire at night, the other air crews return to Tel Aviv hotels overnight.
Saturday evening, three planes and a firefighting team arrived from France.
Some of the foreign firefighting aircraft are capable of filling their tanks with seawater directly from the Mediterranean. The Israeli planes, contrarily, are only able to take off and land on runways, as they were original agricultural spraying aircraft.
The Palestinian Authority sent eight firefighting teams that helped in the north and Jerusalem Mountains. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu telephoned Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas Friday night to thank him for sending the personnel and fire trucks.