WASHINGTON (JTA) — The Obama administration is seeking avenues to assist Israel in combating raging forest fires in its north.
"I want to begin by offering our deepest condolences to the families and loved ones of all of those who’ve died as a result of the terrible forest fire in northern Israel," President Obama said Thursday evening, launching the annual White House Chanukah party. "As rescuers and firefighters continue in their work, the United States is acting to help our Israeli friends respond to the disaster."
A number of countries, including Turkey, Greece, Cyprus, Egypt, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority are assisting in attempts to squelch the blaze in the Carmel Mountains near Haifa, which has led to the deaths of 40 people and the evacuation of 15,000.
"A short while ago, our ambassador in Tel Aviv, Jim Cunningham, issued a disaster declaration, which has launched an effort across the U.S. government to identify the firefighting assistance we have available and provide it to Israel as quickly as possible," Obama said. "Of course, that’s what friends do for each other."
Separately, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton 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."