Israeli government convenes in scorched Haifa as wildfires controlled


JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israel’s Cabinet held its weekly meeting in Haifa to show support for the thousands of people displaced by the wildfires that ravaged Israel in recent days.

“This is our message to all Israeli citizens whose homes and property were damaged in the fire: We will help you rebuild your homes and your lives as soon as possible and this is the main purpose of the special Cabinet session today in Haifa,” Netanyahu said at the beginning of the meeting on Sunday, adding that the government plans to “cut through the cruelty of bureaucracy” to help people get on their feet again.

Most of the fires that swept across the country in recent days have been extinguished, according to reports, though several small fires cropped up on Sunday and more could be expected.

Netanyahu said at the meeting that the fires, many of which officials blame on Arab arson attacks, are worse than “other terror attacks.”

During the meeting, Netanyahu announced that he was working to establish a multinational firefighting force, which also would make group purchases of expensive firefighting equipment. He said he had spoken to officials in several countries and had found “a great interest” in the idea.

Netanyahu thanked the countries that sent aid and aircraft, pilots and firefighters to help halt the progress of the fires. He thanked the Israeli firefighters, as well as the Israel Police, the Magen David Adom rescue service, the Israel Defense Forces Home Front Command and the rest of the rescue forces, and saluted their courage. He acknowledged the swift response of local authorities and average Israeli citizens who opened their homes to the evacuees.

He added that the conditions of these fires were much more complicated than the Carmel forest fire in 2010, in which 44 people, including many police officers, were killed.

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