Europeans and Egypt send air support as Israel battles wildfires

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JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Four European countries and Egypt sent aircraft to help Israel battle wildfires that have forced the evacuation of some small towns, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Friday, as a record heatwave looked set to worsen conditions.

Firefighting planes were coming in from Cyprus, Greece, Italy and Croatia, Israel’s Foreign Ministry said. Egypt, on the orders of President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi, had also sent two helicopters to assist Israel, Netanyahu told reporters.

Israel’s Fire and Rescue Service said blazes in a key corridor between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv were mostly under control but difficult weather remained a conflagration risk.

“As of this moment, this (containment) is being done in the best possible way, but the challenge is yet ahead of us given the weather conditions, the winds and the extreme heat,” Netanyahu said.

The Palestinian Authority and Russia had also offered help, he said.

Some 3,500 residents of small towns in the fires path were evacuated on Thursday, officials said. Dozens of homes have burned down.

Writing by Dan Williams, Editing by William Maclean