Two Israeli airplanes join firefighting efforts in Turkish controlled part of Cyprus

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NICOSIA, June 23 (Xinhua) -- Israel has sent two firefighting airplanes at the request of the Cypriot government to help put out a fire raging for a third day in the Turkish-controlled part of Cyprus.

The fire has been spreading in inaccessible areas of the Pentadaktylos Mountain, running along the central part of the northern coast of Cyprus.

Turkish Cypriot authorities said that the situation has been improving, but the fire is still posing a threat in inaccessible areas.

The Israeli airplanes landed at Larnaca airport and then headed north to the fire-stricken areas, accompanied for safety reasons by a helicopter of the United Nations Peace Keeping Force in Cyprus.

Cypriot authorities said Israel had responded to their request for help under a standing arrangement between Cyprus, Israel and Greece to help each other in emergency situations in any of the three countries.

State-run Cyprus News Agency quoted unnamed diplomatic sources as saying that the decision to dispatch the Israeli airplanes had been taken directly by Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid.

Turkish-Israeli relations have been tense since the 2010 incident of Mavi Marmara, a Turkish ferry which was raided by Israeli commandos as it transported help to the Palestinians in Gaza.

Turkish Cypriot authorities said two villages had been evacuated as they were directly threatened by the flames.

Turkish vice-president Fuat Oktay has visited the fire-stricken area and called for an intensification of the firefighting efforts.

Turkish Cypriot leader Ersin Tatar said that barring any unexpected developments, the Israeli airplanes are expected to stop the fire from spreading any further by nightfall. Enditem

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