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Israel wildfire exposes gaps in emergency preparedness

As international help pours in to quench an unprecedented Israeli wildfire, many are asking whether the country is equally unprepared to deal with an Iran or Hezbollah missile attack.

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In a telephone call thanking Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he hoped the aid would be an opening for better relations.

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"This catastrophe is creating opportunity for diplomacy. Maybe it will speed up the process" of resolution between Jerusalem and Ankara, says Alon Liel, a former Israeli diplomat who served in Turkey. "We usually can handle the troubles we have, especially when its terror. But this time we could not because of the size [of the fire] and because we were not prepared."

Israelis headed to evacuate Palestinian prisoners perish

Since the fire broke out Thursday morning, some 17,000 residents in the suburbs outside of Haifa, have been evacuated. The fire, which hasn’t reached Haifa, has burned through thousands of acres of pine and oak trees that blanket a mountain range to the southeast.

All of the fatalities occurred Thursday afternoon on a narrow mountain road where the fire trapped a bus carrying about 50 prison guards and officer cadets to assist in the evacuation of about 500 prisoners, many of them Palestinians.

Mr. Netanyahu called the blaze a "fire of international proportions" while Haifa Mayor Yonah Yahav called the incident a "national tragedy."

As darkness fell here Friday, Israeli authorities said they didn't know how soon the fire could be extinguished. "It's going to take days," said Israeli Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch. But police commissioner Dudi Cohen expressed optimism that it could be contained by Saturday night, reported Ynet news.

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