Israeli planes help fight forest fires in northern Cyprus breakaway

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NICOSIA, Cyprus (TUSEN) — Israel sent two water-dropping planes on Thursday to help fight a large wildfire that has burned at least 10,000 acres (4,000 hectares) of forest in the foothills of the Pentadaktylos mountain range in the breakaway north of the Cyprus ethnic divide.

The two Israeli planes joined two other planes and a helicopter that the Cypriot government sent to fight the fire following a request by the dissident Turkish Cypriot authorities through the United Nations Peacekeeping Force. peace in Cyprus, or UNFICYP, on the island nation.

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Planes from Turkey, the UN and two British military bases on the island are also helping with firefighting efforts.

Cyprus was divided in 1974 during the Turkish invasion following a coup aimed at union with Greece. Only Turkey recognizes a Turkish Cypriot declaration of independence and Turkish Cypriots reject the internationally recognized authority of the Cypriot government over the northern third of the island.

Cypriot government deputy spokeswoman Niovi Parissinou told the Cyprus News Agency that government authorities are “always ready and willing” to respond to the call for help. Despite the island’s complex politics, this type of “fire diplomacy” illustrates the willingness of rival parties to work together to deal with natural disasters.

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The head of the Cyprus Forest Department, Charalambos Alexandrou, told TUSEN that the two Israeli planes would first land at Larnaca airport in the south before starting parachute drops over areas affected by the fires in the north.

Turkish Cypriot leader Ersin Tatar flew over the affected area on Thursday to inspect the extent of the damage. He told Turkish Cypriot TV channel BRT that the fire would hopefully be brought under complete control with the help of Greek Cypriot and Israeli planes.

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Tatar said the fire threatened three villages, but residents using tractors to clear brush around their homes prevented the fire from spreading. The blaze apparently started when a car outside a house in the village caught fire.

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