WASHINGTON – The U.S. is sending a team of expert firefighters and supplies to Israel to help the country contain the worst forest fire in its history, Obama administration officials said Friday.
President Barack Obama discussed the deadly fire with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a telephone call from Air Force One after it departed from Afghanistan. Obama had made an unannounced holiday visit to U.S. troops there.
The blaze has killed at least 41 people and displaced thousands.
Nancy Lindborg, assistant administrator for democracy, conflict and humanitarian assistance at the U.S. Agency for International Development, said a three-person U.S. Forest Service team experienced in aerial firefighting was en route to Israel and should arrive during the weekend.
At Israel's request, the U.S. also is sending 45 metric tons of fire retardant and 12,000 liters of foam. The chemicals are used to fight fires from the air and on the ground.
The U.S. also is trying to fulfill Israel's request for aircraft, said Dan Shapiro, a National Security Council official.
During the conversation with Netanyahu, Obama offered condolences for the loss of life, National Security Council aide Ben Rhodes told the reporters traveling with the president.
Rhodes also said the Pentagon was mobilizing National Guard members and equipment that can be used to fight fires.