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February 6, 2023 9:14 am

Netanyahu Says Syria Requests Quake Relief, Israel Ready to Send It

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avatar by Reuters and Algemeiner Staff

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu chairs a weekly cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister’s office in Jerusalem, February 5, 2023. Photo: Gil Cohen-Magen/Pool via REUTERS

Israel said on Monday that it had received a Syrian request for assistance with earthquake relief for the Arab state and that it was prepared to oblige, in what would be rare cooperation between the enemy neighbours.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a speech he had ordered Israeli aid sent to Turkey, the epicentre of Monday’s earthquake, with the airlifts due to depart toward evening.

“Since a request was also received to do this for many victims of the earthquake in Syria, I instructed to do this as well,” he said at a ceremony in a hospital near Tel Aviv.

In later televised remarks to his party, Netanyahu said the request for humanitarian relief for Syria had been relayed “by a diplomatic official” – whom he did not identify.

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“I approved this, and I reckon that these things will be carried out soon,” Netanyahu said.

Syrian officials have reported hundreds killed in the civil war-torn country, both in areas under Damascus’ control and in the opposition-held northwest.

Asked who had made the request regarding Syria cited by Netanyahu, an Israeli official told Reuters: “The Syrians”. Asked if this referred to opposition members or to President Bashar al-Assad’s government, the official said only: “Syria“.

There was no immediate Syrian response to the Israeli statements.

Israel‘s public broadcaster Kan said in an unsourced report that Russia had relayed the request for Israel to assist Syria.

The Russian embassy in Israel declined comment.

The aid that Israel will send comprises blankets, tents and medication, Kan said, adding that the Netanyahu government had also indicated willingness to take in casualties if asked.

Israeli officials did not immediately detail the aid.

Israel and Syria have been in a state of war for decades, with periods of ceasefire. For a time, Israel helped Syrian rebels on the Golan Heights frontier, and in 2018 it worked with Jordan and the United States to evacuate Syrian “White Helmet” rescue workers and their families fleeing a government advance.

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