Israel has sent a team of 230 search and rescue and medical professionals to aid the people of Turkey after Monday’s devastating 7.7 and 7.6 magnitude earthquakes. The death toll now stands at an estimated 16,000 people, and it is a race against the clock (and the freezing weather) to rescue those who remained trapped beneath the rubble.
Israel and Turkey only recently re-established friendly diplomatic ties, but the Jewish nation did not hesitate to send help to its Muslim neighbor to the north. The Israeli delegation is made up of search and rescue workers, military medics, doctors, nurses, and paramedics who are part of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) Medical Corps and Logistics Corp.
The team is also establishing a field hospital led by Col. Elad Edri, commander of the Home Front Comand Search and Rescue Brigade. The IDF has nicknamed the effort “Olive Branches.”
“The delegation will establish a field hospital and focus on providing medical treatment using advanced equipment brought in from Israel,” according to a statement released by the IDF.
By Tuesday night, the Israeli team had already safely extracted two people from under the wreckage in Kahramanmaraş.
“We were on our way to a damaged site, when we were called by locals who said they heard sounds coming from the rubble. We began a complicated rescue operation that lasted four-and-a-half hours … and we got out a 23-year-old woman in good health, only with a broken pelvis,” said Maj. (Res.) Matan Schneider.
And many more have been rescued in the hours since.
Israel is one of only a handful of nations sending and deploying a field hospital to help the victims of the quakes.
“This is a difficult hour for the Turkish nation, and we are proud that we can come and assist,” IDF Medical Corps Chief, Brig.-Gen. Dr. Elon Glassberg said. “The ability to send a hospital to another country is a unique ability. Few countries are able to do such a thing, and we are proud to be the ones to come and help. We have done so in the past, we will do it this time, and we will do it like always, with professionalism, from a sense of responsibility and with a sense of pride … we will bring pride to the State of Israel.”
In addition to the IDF teams, United Hatzalah (a volunteer-based emergency services organization in Israel) has sent a delegation of medical personnel, psychological trauma specialists, and search and rescue professionals to southern Turkey. And two other Israeli groups have sent rescue teams. In addition, Israel’s Foreign Affairs Ministry is possibly sending medicine supplies and additional humanitarian aid.
Syria is not able to receive as much assistance due to international sanctions in place, but on Monday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel will be sending humanitarian aid, such as medicine, blankets, and tents to the war-torn country after receiving a request supposedly from Russia. Syria denied it asked Israel for help and called Netanyahu’s offer “propaganda.” Technically, Israel and Syria are at war.
Some accuse Israel for only saving lives because it is good PR. But I have met some of these Israelis who have gone to places like Haiti (after the earthquake) and they go to save lives. If we had a devastating earthquake in Israel, I often wonder if Syria or Turkey would offer the Jewish state help.