An Israeli military field hospital established near the Turkish city of Kahramanmaraş has so far treated around 180 people, including Syrian refugees living in the country, who were injured in the devastating earthquake that struck the region earlier in the week.
The Israel Defense Forces said Saturday that at least 10 Syrian civilians who were in Turkey at the time of Monday’s 7.8-magnitude quake and its aftershocks were treated at the field hospital, which was set up in an abandoned medical center building.
On Friday, a four-year-old Syrian refugee whose parents were killed in the quake was brought to the field hospital.
“This is an area with a lot of Syrian refugees. This boy was rescued three or four days ago, his whole family was killed, and he was brought by his uncle. We treated him and calmed him down. He came in a moderate to serious condition,” said Lt. Col. Aziz Ibrahim, a nurse and a commander in the IDF Medical Corps.
“I found myself taking out halva from our combat rations and giving it to him, and he loved it,” Ibrahim said, referring to the popular sesame snack. “Of course, I also spoke to him in Arabic.”
Ibrahim said the boy’s uncle came up to him and said, “You Israelis treat us better than our people.”
“This was really touching, I told him we’re here to save lives… I think this is a good message for the world to know what the IDF is and what its values are,” Ibrahim said.
Israel has deployed around 450 rescue specialists, doctors and nurses to Turkish towns and cities to assist in the relief effort.
The military has dubbed the aid operation “Olive Branches.”
So far, the IDF search and rescue teams have saved 19 Turkish civilians from under the rubble, the last of which was on Friday night, 120 hours since the quake struck.
Even though experts say trapped people could survive for a week or more, the chances of finding survivors in the freezing temperatures are dimming. As emergency crews and panicked relatives dug through the rubble — and occasionally found people alive — the focus began to shift to demolishing dangerously unstable structures.
The earthquake death toll stood at over 25,000 people in both Turkey and Syria as of Saturday.
Thousands were still believed to be trapped under rubble, and the toll was expected to rise as rescue workers searched through mounds of wreckage in cities and towns across the area.