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February 6, 2023 5:57 pm

Israel Sends Rescue, Medical Teams to Turkey, Syria Following Deadly Earthquake

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A box of medical equipment being loaded onto a truck on as part of a humanitarian aid mission organized by Israel following a major earthquake in southern Turkey on February 6, 2023. Photo: IDF

Israel on Monday began sending humanitarian aid teams to Turkey and Syria, where a devastating earthquake has killed thousands and left many more injured and homeless.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday ordered the dispatch of search and rescue teams, as well as medical personnel, after the magnitude 7.8 earthquake struck southern Turkey early Monday, near the Syrian border. The assistance was mobilized in accordance with a request with Ankara.

The premier said teams will also be dispatched to help “the many who were injured in the earthquake in Syria,” a country with which Israel has been in a state of war since 1948, as “a request was also received to do this.” Netanyahu said the request for Syria was made “by a diplomatic official,” without further specification.

An Israeli official who spoke to Reuters was similarly brief, indicating the request was made by “the Syrians” and “Syria” without elaborating on whether the source was Damascus, which is controlled by President Bashar al-Assad, or members of the opposition.

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Israel commonly sends search and rescue and medical delegations to foreign disaster zones, and has previously extended humanitarian aid to Syrian rebels during the Syrian conflict.

Speaking to a pro-government outlet on Monday, an unnamed Syrian source denied that a request for Israeli help was made following the earthquake.

An initial rescue delegation — dubbed “Olive Branches,” and organized in coordination with the Israeli military, the Foreign Ministry, and the Defense Ministry — flew to Turkey from Israel’s Nevatim Air Force Base on Monday evening. A second, larger delegation carrying “extensive” humanitarian aid is set to leave Tuesday morning, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said.

The delegation includes about 150 reserve and regular officers, the Israeli military said, as well as fire and rescue forces. The IDF Medical Corps is also sending a delegation to establish a field hospital in the affected area.

“We are arriving at a stage where there is still a chance to find living people,” said the IDF officer helming the delegation. “The conditions … are not easy, both the weather and the destruction,” he noted, “but we hope to help the country and its citizens as much as possible.”

Israeli officials have sent condolences over the devastation caused by the quake, with the Tel Aviv Municipality building lighting up in the image of the Turkish flag in a display of solidarity. Netanyahu has also directed National Security Council head Tzachi Hanegbi to carry out a situational assessment regarding Israel’s own earthquake readiness.

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