Obama calls Israeli PM, offers help to battle fire
Washington: US President Barack Obama has assured Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that his administration was pursuing a "full court press" to combat the biggest forest fire in the Jewish country's history that has already claimed 41 lives.
"The President said he is pleased that American and Israeli officials have been in near-constant contact since the fires began. The President said that USAID and the Department of Defence will be delivering large procurements of fire-retardant chemicals this weekend," the White House said in a statement.
Obama informed Netanyahu that the first specialised technical team will arrive today, with other teams to arrive shortly thereafter, and that the US is also working with private industry to mobilise private resources to assist with the effort.
Obama said that the US is working hard to identify a variety of firefighting aircraft to assist with the effort, including possibly deploying assets from the United Sates.
"The President concluded the conversation by noting that we are pursuing a 'full court press' to help and have the Israeli people in our thoughts and prayers," the White House said.
USAID providing fire retardant chemicals, shipped to Israel. Pentagon is sending fire retardant chemicals to Israel in the coming day or so. The US is also providing a technical assistance team that has specialised expertise and equipment - arriving "very soon".
The call lasted less than 10 minutes and only covered the fires.
In another statement, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton offered her condolences to the families and loved ones of those who have lost their lives in the fires in northern Israel.
"Our Ambassador to Israel, James Cunningham, has already issued a disaster declaration, prompting significant coordination within the United States government to identify and provide Israel with firefighting assistance," she said.
"We are moving as quickly as we can to provide this assistance, and are heartened by similar efforts to contribute resources from Israel's other friends around the world. My hope is that the fires are extinguished soon.”
"The hearts of the people of the United States go out to the people of Israel, and we stand with them at this difficult time," Hillary said.