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World pitches in as Israel wages air battle against inferno

Firefighting officials in Israel say they are close to bringing a deadly wildfire under control that has raged for days in the north of the country. The blaze is believed to have been caused by negligent teenagers.

A Russian plane flies over the fire in northern Israel

International help has poured into northern Israel

The wildfires that broke out in Israel last week and have become the most severe in the country's history are waning in intensity, according to the firefighting authority.

Spokesman Boaz Rakia told a news conference on Sunday that "the general picture is better, more optimistic," adding that fire squads could have the blazes under control by the end of the day, but that it could take days before they are completely extinguished.

Nations from around the world have sent assistance to help fight the bush and forest fires that have killed 41 people and destroyed millions of trees since they began on Thursday.

Germany has said it would send two transport helicopters. The government in Berlin announced that an air force advance party would travel to Israel to prepare before the CH-53 helicopters arrive on Monday to join the international firefighting operation.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has also offered to send help, which he conveyed in a rare telephone conversation with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The two are believed not to have spoken since US-brokered peace negotiations collapsed in September.

Negligence behind fires

Firefighters trying to extinguish the flames

Israel's worst-ever forest fire has claimed 41 lives

Israeli police have confirmed their arrest of two teenage brothers suspected of causing the fire. The minors are set to be brought before a court later on Sunday where their detention is likely to be extended.

Haifa District Police spokesman Yehuda Maman said the fire started when the two youths were drinking coffee and smoking a water pipe outside their home.

"It spread from there," he said, adding that no further details of the investigation were available.

Author: Gabriel Borrud (AFP, dpa)
Editor: Toma Tasovac

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