Israel — A slim majority of the respondents to a reader poll on Ma’an’s Arabic-language news site said sending Palestinian firefighters to help battle Israel’s fire was “disgraceful.”
Firefighters from more than 16 countries helped to extinguish the blaze, the worst in Israel’s history, which broke out on Dec. 2 and spread through the Carmel forest for four days.
Of 48,870 readers who responded to the 7-day poll, 50.3 percent (24,524) described Palestinians’ participation as a disgrace, but 48.7 percent (23,761) said sending Palestinian firefighters to help was civilized and a humanitarian duty.
Palestinian firefighters wait to cross Al-Jalameh checkpoint to help extinguish a huge inferno that swept across northern Israel on 5 December 2010.
Palestinian civil defense crews were dispatched to Israel to bolster the country’s woefully inadequate fire service.
Bethlehem’s civil defense chief Ibrahim Ayish, whose crews were sent to Israel, said the orders to help came from President Mahmoud Abbas that he was “proud to participate in the humanitarian work of firefighting.”
“We’re working alongside the Israeli team, which knows the area very well,” he said at the time. “We were received respectfully. After all, we’re dealing with a humanitarian crisis which knows no borders. Neither walls nor checkpoints will stop us.”
According to a statement from Abbas’ office, the president received a phone call from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu thanking him for his assistance.
The death toll from the forest fire rose to 43 on Saturday as another prison guard died of his injuries, the Israeli news site Ynet reported.