Netanyahu: Anyone who tries to burn down the state of Israel will face the fullest punishment

US Supertanker and 50 US firefighters en route to Israel; Haifa evacuees told to return; Firefighting forces deployed to Jerusalem hills; Netanyahu meets with officials and coordinates efforts

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Fires continue across Israel, with firefighting efforts spread across the country, most recently in the hills of Jerusalem.

While the over 60,000 evacuated residents of Haifa were told to return to their homes Friday, firefighter forces were dispatched to the hills of Jerusalem as more fires broke out this afternoon. Over 20 aircraft are currently fighting fires around the nation’s capital.

Prime Minister Netanyahu met with Israeli officials at the Hazor Airbase in in northern Israel Friday afternoon to discuss the current crisis and address humanitarian efforts moving forward. He stated entering the meeting “This is the conclusion from intelligence we have. Arson was definitely involved in some of the cases, but not all of them. Whether or not this was an organized phenomenon? That I can’t say. The police are working overtime and they have been instructed to prosecute arsonists. Like with any crime, punitive action is key. Arson terrorism will come with a cost… I won’t go into details so not to disrupt the investigation, but it is likelihood this is more than pyromania and there is also a nationalistic motive.”

Prime Minister Netanyahu has been clear that arsonists will be punished severely, stating to the press on Thursday “The instructions are to prosecute anyone committing these acts so that all can see that anyone who tries to burn down the state of Israel will face the fullest punishment. There is a price to crime and there is a price for terror and incitement and we will exact it.”

Several nations came to Israel’s assistance, Greece and Croatia the first to assist Israel, given the trilateral agreements in emergency aid with Israel. Greece sent a crew of 32 and three planes, with Croatia sending two aircraft with a crew of 14. Turkey was also a first responder, sending aircraft to help control blazes in northern Israel.

Russia sent two Beriev Be-200’s along with a crew of 20. Russia announced on Thursday evening that it would send an additional two aircraft to assist in efforts Friday. France sent to firefighting planes, with assistance assured from Ukraine, Azerbaijan and United Kingdom.

And the United States deployed its Boeing-747 Supertanker to Israel Thursday, the largest firefighter aircraft in the world. The aircraft has capability of carrying over 74 tons of water and fire retardants. Prime Minister Netanyahu explained that the Supertanker is able to operate overnight, stating “There is only one plane that has this ability, and that is the Supertanker. I instructed that it be brought here. It will take 24 hours to come from the US. We only use it in extreme situations. We don’t use it for everything but I prefer that we have too much rather than too little.”

The United States has also sent around 50 large-scale expert firefighters who are currently en route to Israel.

Both Egypt and Jordan offered assistance on Friday morning, Egypt sending firefighting helicopters and Jordan sending fire trucks to work with Israeli firefighting efforts. Prime Minister Netanyahu thanked both neighboring countries, confirming their assistance to the press Friday morning.