IDF to set up field hospital in Turkey; Israel’s search and rescue team starts work
Delegation of 230 troops, medics to depart Wednesday; top IDF doctor: ‘This is a difficult hour for the Turkish nation, we are proud we can come and assist’
Emanuel (Mannie) Fabian is The Times of Israel's military correspondent.
An Israel Defense Forces delegation of medical and logistics corps troops was set to depart for Turkey Wednesday morning to establish a field hospital to treat those injured in a devastating earthquake and smaller aftershocks that have killed thousands of people, the military said.
Preparations were underway on Tuesday, and the IDF said the delegation would comprise some 230 people, including search and rescue experts, military medics, and Health Ministry doctors, nurses, and paramedics.
An initial team landed in Turkey early Wednesday morning to scout out the area and determine where the field hospital would be established.
“The delegation will establish a field hospital and focus on providing medical treatment using advanced equipment brought in from Israel,” the IDF said in a statement.
Additionally, the IDF said the delegation would assist Home Front Command search and rescue teams, which began operating in southeastern Turkey on Tuesday evening.
The IDF dispatched an initial delegation on Monday evening, followed by a larger 150-person one early Tuesday morning.
The search and rescue delegation that departed early Tuesday was reportedly delayed by several hours due to harsh winter weather conditions and traffic, before it began operations.
Overnight Tuesday, Home Front Command teams managed to rescue a young woman and a boy trapped under rubble in separate areas 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 rescued a 23-year-old woman in good health, only with a fractured pelvis,” said Maj. (Res.) Matan Schneider, the commander of one of the teams.
The field hospital delegation was to be led by the commander of the Home Front Command Search and Rescue Brigade, Col. Elad Edri.
The preparations were led by the deputy chief of the Medical Corps, Col. Dr. Tomer Koller, who will also be on the ground to manage the hospital.
In a video statement, the chief of the IDF Medical Corps, Brig. Gen. Dr. Elon Glassberg, addressed the decision to send a field hospital “amid the great disaster in Turkey.”
“This is a difficult hour for the Turkish nation, and we are proud that we can come and assist,” 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,” he added.
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.
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.
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 at least 7,100 people in both Turkey and Syria as of late Tuesday.
Hundreds were still believed to be trapped under rubble, and the toll was expected to rise, as rescue workers searched mounds of wreckage in cities and towns across the area.