The eyes of the world are currently on the Middle East, where the conflict between Israel and Hizbullah in Lebanon shows no signs of abating. The Czech Republic is in the process of forming a new government, so there has been little reaction to international developments. But after an official request from Israel, the outgoing cabinet did find the time this week to decide to provide aid - to both countries caught up in the conflict. Dita Asiedu reports:
A Czech Army aircraft was deployed to Israel on Friday morning, carrying fire fighting equipment worth 1.5 million crowns, or a little under 67,000 US dollars. The equipment, which includes 1,300 hoses, will be used to fight fires at a number of villages that are spread out over a wide territory. According to Defence Minister Karel Kuhnl the Czech government is prepared to send more aid if the conflict continues. Petr Kopacek is the spokesman for the Czech Fire Service:
"The aircraft with the humanitarian aid has been sent to Tel Aviv. From there, it will be up to our Israeli colleagues to use it as they see fit. Eight members of the Czech Fire Service's rescue department were also on board the plane. They will be responsible for the aid's distribution. I don't know why Israel chose to ask the Czech Republic for the equipment. One of the reasons must be because of the good and long-standing bilateral relations, and the fact that rescue teams from the two countries have been cooperating together."
While Israel will be provided with fire fighting equipment, Lebanon is being offered financial aid and medical assistance for its children. Beirut has already been sent 5 million crowns (a little over 222,000 US dollars). On Wednesday, the government approved a proposal by Interior Minister Frantisek Bublan to put an additional 10 million crowns into a project that provides medical assistance to children from war-torn countries. Minister Bublan:
"I put forward the proposal to make it possible to spend much more money - tens of millions of crowns. I have also proposed to make it easier for conflict-hit countries whose children are in the future in need of medical assistance to be able to take advantage of this project."
Under the Medevac project, 93 children from Bosnia, Kosovo, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Iraq have already received crucial medical treatment in Czech hospitals. The offer is now to be extended to Lebanon.
Several Czech humanitarian organisations are also engaged in Lebanon. The
Czech Red Cross, the People in Need foundation, and the Adra organisation
have each collected half a million crowns, so far, to be used to aid local
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