ISRAEL AT WAR - DAY 143

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Israel sending aid and water purification system

IDF teams rescue 10-year-old boy trapped under rubble for 100 hours in Turkey

Employing tech usually used for special ops, intel unit mapping out damaged sites; Home Front Command search and rescue experts save 18 civilians so far; field hospital begins work

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

IDF and local rescuers pull a 10-year-old boy out from under the rubble, 100 hours after an earthquake struck in Turkey, on February 10, 2023 (Screencapture/ Israel Defense Forces video)
IDF and local rescuers pull a 10-year-old boy out from under the rubble, 100 hours after an earthquake struck in Turkey, on February 10, 2023 (Screencapture/ Israel Defense Forces video)

Israeli military search and rescue experts on Friday morning pulled a 10-year-old boy out of a collapsed building in southeastern Turkey, some 100 hours after a devastating earthquake struck the region.

The dramatic rescue from the rubble in Kahramanmaraş brought to 18 the number of Turkish civilians rescued by the Home Front Command teams, according to the Israel Defense Forces.

“The rescue teams provided the boy with lifesaving medical treatment during the rescue and afterward transferred him to a hospital for further medical treatment,” the IDF said.

There were no immediate details on the boy’s condition.

The IDF also published a video of the rescue operation, showing the team managing to extract him from under a mass of collapsed concrete and twisted metal.

While several dramatic rescues were reported across the region, they were becoming increasingly rare.

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 Israeli military said search and rescue experts were continuing to work to rescue civilians trapped under the rubble since Monday’s 7.8-magnitude earthquake, which has killed thousands of people.

On Thursday, Israeli teams saved a 7-year-old girl from a collapsed building in the same city. The girl’s uncle gifted one of the Israeli rescuers an old coin as a token of gratitude.

This handout photo from the IDF shows a 7-year-old Turkish girl who was rescued by the Israeli team from a building that collapsed in the deadly earthquake, February 9, 2023. (Israel Defense Forces)

Aside from the 450 members of the Israeli aid delegation on the ground, a military intelligence unit was assisting in efforts to map out sites in Turkey damaged by the devastating earthquake.

The IDF said Unit 9900, part of the Military Intelligence Directorate, had been producing data sets and decoding satellite photographs, “allowing forces on the ground to pinpoint the location of the damaged sites and thus optimize their work.”

On Wednesday, a small team with “advanced technologies capabilities” landed in southeast Turkey to assist the teams in rescuing Turkish civilians trapped under the rubble, the IDF said.

“I am proud to take part in the Israeli effort to save lives in Turkey. We are employing mapping capabilities that are usually used for special operations, in order to save lives wherever needed,” said Lt. Aleph — who can only be identified by the first initial of his name in Hebrew — the commander of the small Unit 9900 team.

This handout photo from the IDF on February 9, 2023, shows a quake-hit area of Turkey that the Military Intelligence Directorate’s Unit 9900 is helping map. (Israel Defense Forces)

David Saranga, an Israeli Foreign Ministry official, said Friday morning that a ” large-scale aid shipment” would be delivered to Turkey in the near future, including tens of thousands of blankets, sleeping bags, coats, and winter equipment.

“Israel will also send large water purification systems that provide drinking water to thousands of people a day,” Saranga added.

Israeli soldiers prepare medical equipment at an abandoned medical center used as a field hospital near Kahramanmaraş, Turkey, to treat victims of an earthquake, February 10. 2023. (Israel Defense Forces)

Meanwhile, 140 doctors, nurses, pharmacists, technicians, paramedics and logistics personnel from the Israeli military, Health Ministry and Magen David Adom ambulance service began operating a field hospital near Kahramanmaraş, using an abandoned medical center building.

The IDF said the delegation had made the center’s ER, ICU and operating rooms operational again in order to treat victims of the earthquake.

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

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

IDF search and rescue teams work to find survivors after an earthquake in Turkey on February 9, 2023. (Israel Defense Forces)

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.

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.

This aerial view shows a collapsed building during ongoing searches in Hatay, southeastern Turkey, on February 9, 2023, two days after a strong earthquake struck the region. (DHA/Demiroren News Agency/AFP)

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 over 21,000 people in both Turkey and Syria as of Friday morning.

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.

AP contributed to this report

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