Abbas sends firefighters to extinguish blaze in Israel

Netanyahu, Abbas hold rare phone chat over fires

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Palestinian civil defense forces have joined the huge international operation to tame the massive blaze ravaging northern Israel, the president's office said on Saturday.

"The three units of the Palestinian civil defense were sent to assist in extinguishing the fires in the Carmel," said a statement from the office of Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas.

The massive fire, which broke out on Thursday morning, has so far killed 41 people and is still raging out of control, prompting an urgent appeal for international help from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

"President Mahmud Abbas on Saturday received a telephone call from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu expressing his gratitude for the help of Palestinian firefighters in putting out the fires raging since the day before yesterday in the Carmel mountains," the statement added.

The two leaders were not believed to have spoken since they last met in September when U.S.-backed peace talks stalled in a spat over Jewish settlement construction.

A statement from Netanyahu's office said Abbas "expressed his condolences to the people of Israel on those who died in the fire and said he would be happy to provide any necessary help."

In the conversation described as "warm and friendly," Netanyahu replied that "neighbors should always help each other."

Netanyahu also suggested he would put a fleet of firefighter planes he has plans to establish "at the disposal of" Israel's Arab neighbors, the statement said.

Israeli police suspect the fire was set by negligence after the lighting of a campfire on grounds near the drought-stricken woodland.

Israeli-Palestinian peace talks have remained stalled over the settlements dispute, but Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on Friday the United States was making intensive efforts to relaunch the talks and would announce further steps next week.

President Mahmud Abbas on Saturday received a telephone call from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu expressing his gratitude for the help of Palestinian firefighters

Office of Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas