Eight fire trucks and approximately 40 Palestinian firefighters returned to the West Bank on Saturday, after assisting Israel in extinguishing fires in Haifa and the foothills of Jerusalem.
A Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) spokesperson said that four PA teams were sent to Haifa and four others to the Jerusalem area on Thursday evening, where they worked alongside their Israeli counterparts.
The spokesperson added that the eight teams came together to fight fires in the Jerusalem area on Friday evening and rescued a 30-year-old Jewish man who had fallen into a well on Saturday morning.
PA Civil Defense chief Yousif Nassar visited the firefighters in the Jerusalem area on Saturday morning.
PA Civil Defense spokesman Nael Azzh told The Jerusalem Post on Saturday evening that the PA firefighters had a highly professional experience in Israel.
“Firefighters around the world have a professional, shared language. The officer with the highest rank leads the mission regardless of citizenship,” Azzh stated. “We worked according to this language.”
Azzh added that politics should not interfere in saving lives and property during a disaster. “During disasters, we must put politics to the side, because disasters bring us together; they do not pull us apart,” he said. “I believe that joint work can be the start of understanding the other and his needs.”
The eight firetrucks were sent into Israel after the PA government offered to help on Thursday. The PA Civil Defense service has been fighting a number of fires across the West Bank for the past few days.
Other countries have also sent equipment and firefighting personnel, including Egypt, Jordan, a number of European countries, and the US.
The cause of the fires has yet to be determined. Police Commissioner Roni Alsheich said “there are some cases of arson, and lots of cases that are not arson.”
Education Minister Naftali Bennett said on Thursday the fires could only have been set by “someone who this land this does not belong to,” seemingly suggesting Israeli Arabs or Palestinians were responsible.
Joint List chairman Ayman Odeh rejected Bennett’s comments.
“To my regret, someone decided to exploit this dreadful situation to incite and to lash out at an entire community,” he said. “Whoever loves our homeland has to focus right now on putting out the fires and helping the injured and not on fanning hate.”
The PA Civil Defense also sent firefighting teams to assist Israel in 2010 in combating the Mount Carmel forest fire.