ISRAEL AT WAR - DAY 145

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IDF teams rescue 17 civilians in quake-hit south Turkey, set up field hospital

Overnight, Home Front Command search and rescue experts pull 26-year-old woman, 65-year-old man out of collapsed buildings in Kahramanmaraş

Emanuel (Mannie) Fabian is The Times of Israel's military correspondent

  • IDF search and rescue teams work to find survivors after an earthquake in Turkey on February 9, 2023. (Israel Defense Forces)
    IDF search and rescue teams work to find survivors after an earthquake in Turkey on February 9, 2023. (Israel Defense Forces)
  • IDF search and rescue teams work to find survivors after an earthquake in Turkey on February 8, 2023. (Israel Defense Forces)
    IDF search and rescue teams work to find survivors after an earthquake in Turkey on February 8, 2023. (Israel Defense Forces)
  • IDF search and rescue teams work to find survivors after an earthquake in Turkey on February 9, 2023. (Israel Defense Forces)
    IDF search and rescue teams work to find survivors after an earthquake in Turkey on February 9, 2023. (Israel Defense Forces)
  • IDF search and rescue teams work to find survivors after an earthquake in Turkey on February 8, 2023. (Israel Defense Forces)
    IDF search and rescue teams work to find survivors after an earthquake in Turkey on February 8, 2023. (Israel Defense Forces)
  • IDF search and rescue teams work to find survivors after an earthquake in Turkey on February 9, 2023. (Israel Defense Forces)
    IDF search and rescue teams work to find survivors after an earthquake in Turkey on February 9, 2023. (Israel Defense Forces)
  • IDF search and rescue teams work to find survivors after an earthquake in Turkey on February 8, 2023. (Israel Defense Forces)
    IDF search and rescue teams work to find survivors after an earthquake in Turkey on February 8, 2023. (Israel Defense Forces)
  • IDF soldiers are seen transporting water after an earthquake in Turkey on February 9, 2023. (Israel Defense Forces)
    IDF soldiers are seen transporting water after an earthquake in Turkey on February 9, 2023. (Israel Defense Forces)

Israeli military search and rescue teams working since a devastating earthquake struck southeastern Turkey earlier this week have so far pulled out 17 Turkish civilians from the rubble, the Israel Defense Forces said Thursday evening.

The IDF Home Front Command delegation began work on Tuesday, a day after the 7.8-magnitude earthquake struck the region and killed thousands of people.

Meanwhile, a second IDF delegation that landed in the country on Wednesday established a field hospital on the outskirts of the city of Kahramanmaraş overnight. It was expected to receive its first patients on Thursday night.

The IDF said 15 Air Force cargo planes ferried hundreds of tons of equipment and some 230 participants —  including search and rescue experts, military medics and Health Ministry doctors, nurses and paramedics — to Turkey to set up the hospital.

The first IDF delegation of 150 search and rescue experts continued to work to rescue civilians trapped under the rubble, saving a 26-year-old woman and a 65-year-old man in the predawn hours of Thursday in the quake-stricken city, also known as Marash.

The military published footage of the rescues.

In the afternoon hours of Thursday, the IDF teams rescued several more Turkish civilians, including a 7-year-old girl.

The chief of the Home Front Command, Maj. Gen. Rafi Milo, also paid a visit to the teams on Thursday, and was briefed on the ongoing operations.

Speaking to reporters on Wednesday afternoon, the head of the aid delegation, Col. (Res.) Golan Vach, said the Israeli teams had seen successes.

“I think that the state [of Israel] and the Home Front Command know how to carry out such tasks in a short time. The speed with which we reached the scene is what brought us to these results and I hope we will achieve more results soon,” he said.

Vach said such IDF aid delegations usually last between nine and 14 days, and in this case, were ready to stay that long.

Col. (Res.) Golan Vach at the scene of IDF search and rescue efforts after an earthquake in Turkey on February 8, 2023. (Israel Defense Forces)

The military has dubbed the aid operation “Olive Branches.”

The IDF Home Front Command is regularly dispatched around the world to assist in natural disasters, including earthquakes, wildfires, flooding, and building collapses.

The Israeli military field hospital is also regularly dispatched to disaster zones to provide humanitarian relief.

An aerial view shows the staging area of the Israeli army and Israeli rescue forces near the scene of the deadly earthquake in Kahramanmaras, Turkey, on February 9, 2023. (Erik Marmor/Flash90)

Several delegations of Israeli medics from emergency organizations have also headed to Turkey to assist local authorities in treating victims of the earthquake.

The Foreign Ministry was weighing an additional flight to Turkey containing humanitarian items and medicine.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Monday that Israel also plans to send aid to Syria, including tents, medication, and blankets. But Syrian sources vigorously denied requesting aid from Israel, and IDF spokesman Ran Kochav told reporters that the military was not involved in potential aid to Syria.

Collapsed buildings are seen in Antakya, southern Turkey, February 8, 2023. Nearly two days after the magnitude 7.8 quake struck southeastern Turkey and northern Syria, thinly stretched rescue teams work to pull more people from the rubble of thousands of buildings. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)

Israel considers Syria a hostile state, and the two do not have diplomatic ties. However, during the neighboring country’s bloody civil war, the IDF carried out a massive humanitarian operation to aid Syrian civilians.

The earthquake death toll was nearly 20,000 people in both Turkey and Syria as of Thursday evening.

Hundreds 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.

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