Israel hopes to have wildfire under control Sunday
JERUSALEM: Israeli firefighters could bring a deadly wildfire sweeping through northern woodlands since last week under control Sunday, a fire service spokesman said.
Two teenage brothers were arrested Saturday on suspicion they caused the blaze, which has killed 41 people, through negligence. The minors were brought before a court Sunday for an extension of their detention, police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said.
Rosenfeld said he could not confirm Israeli media reports that the boys inadvertently sparked the blaze with a bonfire and a water pipe. Their aunt, identified only as Abir in an Army Radio interview, denied they were responsible for the worst fire in Israel's history. The blaze has been tearing through the Carmel forest near Israel's third-largest city, Haifa, since Thursday. It has caught the country - which prides itself on its technological prowess, ability to improvise and rescue expertise - woefully unprepared. PM Benjamin Netanyahu has appealed to the international community for help, and countries in the immediate region and as far afield as Russia and the U.S. have dispatched planes, firefighters and materials to help battle the blaze. Palestinian fire trucks mobilized for the effort passed through Israel's West Bank separation barrier on Sunday and Israel Radio reported that Australia would also send an aerial firefighting team and firefighting chemicals. "The general picture is better, more optimistic," firefighters' spokesman Boaz Rakia told a news conference Sunday. While it will take days to extinguish the fire completely, he said he hoped it might be brought under control Sunday. But though this fire might be subsiding, critics wondered what Israel's home front weakness might mean for the country's ability to keep its enemies at bay. -Ap