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Swiss end fire-fighting engagement in Israel

Three Swiss helicopters used for fire-fighting flights until the deadly fires in Israel were brought under control are set to return home.

The helicopters are still standing by at Haifa airport so that they can be deployed immediately should the fires flare up again. Otherwise they will begin their two-day return journey to Switzerland on Thursday, the foreign ministry said on Tuesday.

On December 2, the Israeli government asked Switzerland for assistance with fire-fighting helicopters and fire-extinguishing materials to deal with the devastating fires in the Carmel mountain range.

The following day the cabinet decided to help the Israeli authorities by sending three Cougar helicopters of the Swiss air force.

The foreign ministry said the transfer of the helicopters via Athens went smoothly, as did the integration of the Swiss teams into the international operation.

In a ceremony of thanks in Jerusalem, Israel’s President Shimon Peres and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday praised the international assistance as an act of solidarity.

The widespread fires in the Carmel mountains near Haifa claimed 42 lives. Over five million trees were destroyed in an area of 50 km2 and 17,000 people had to be evacuated.

swissinfo.ch and agencies


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