Israel to dispatch emergency aid, teams to earthquake-stricken Turkey
Netanyahu says teams to provide aid ‘at request of Turkey’; Herzog: Israel ‘stands ready to assist’; Foreign Minister Cohen, Defense Minister Gallant speak to Turkish counterparts
Israel will send aid to Turkey as it grapples with the aftermath of a devastating earthquake that killed hundreds of people in the region, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Monday.
Netanyahu said he sends condolences to the citizens of Turkey, and that “at the request of the Turkish government, I instructed all authorities to prepare immediately to provide medical, rescue and life-saving assistance.”
Netanyahu said that an announcement on dispatching rescue teams would be made “in the coming hours.”
Foreign Minister Eli Cohen held an “emergency meeting” at the Foreign Ministry on Monday morning along with ministry CEO Ronen Levi to discuss the situation. He spoke several hours later with his Turkish counterpart, Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, and discussed the dispatch of Israeli assistance.
“In the name of the State of Israel, I would like to express deep sorrow to the Turkish people over the severe earthquake that struck southern Turkey tonight,” said Cohen.
“Our hearts are with the casualties, and we wish a speedy recovery to the injured. I’ve instructed the Foreign Ministry to lead a rapid assistance plan to Turkey to deal with this difficult disaster,” he added.
There has been no official mention of Israeli aid for Syria, and the Foreign Ministry refused to respond on whether assistance to Damascus was being discussed. While the two countries remain officially at war, the Israel Defense Forces carried out a massive humanitarian operation to aid Syrian civilians during the country’s civil war.
Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said he had also instructed the IDF and the Defense Ministry “to prepare immediately to provide emergency assistance” through Israel’s rescue services and the IDF Home Front Command.
“The security forces are ready to offer any assistance that is required,” said Gallant in a statement, noting that Israeli rescue teams have “accumulated a lot of experience over the years in dealing with disaster areas and in the mission of saving lives.”
Gallant said later Monday that he had spoken with his Turkish counterpart, Gen. Hulusi Akar, and “told him that Israeli security forces are on standby and ready to help the Turkish nation with any required life-saving efforts.”
Eynat Shlein, the head of MASHAV, Israel’s national aid agency, flew to Turkey Monday morning.
United Hatzalah of Israel said that it was preparing to send a relief mission to Turkey in coordination with the foreign, defense and health ministries.
“We are standing at the ready to send a relief mission consisting of doctors, paramedics, EMTs, members of the psychotrauma and crisis response unit, and members of the search and rescue units, with medical supplies and humanitarian aid in order to provide assistance to the thousands of people in need in Turkey,” said United Hatzalah CEO Eli Pollack.
The Magen David Adom emergency services aid in a statement that it had been in contact with its Turkish counterparts in the Red Crescent, and “offered humanitarian and medical assistance.”
“Magen David Adom has experience in assisting in disaster situations and the professionals are closely following the earthquake disaster in Turkey, and are prepared to provide any assistance that may be required,” the organization said.
President Isaac Herzog sent his condolences to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan for the “enormous disaster,” expressing sadness “for the loss of life and destruction of livelihoods.”
“The State of Israel always stands ready to assist in every way possible,” Herzog added. “Our hearts are with the grieving families and the Turkish people at this painful moment.”
Israeli Ambassador to Turkey Irit Lillian tweeted that “the thoughts of Israel are with Turkey and its people as we see the first picture of the horrific results of the earthquake.”
Opposition leader Yair Lapid said he “sends my condolences to the Turkish people for last night’s severe earthquake. Israel stands with them.”
A powerful 7.8 magnitude earthquake hit southern Turkey and northern Syria early Monday, toppling buildings and triggering a frantic search for survivors in the rubble in cities and towns across the area. At least 500 were killed and hundreds injured, and the toll was expected to rise.
The quake was also felt by some residents of Israel, although there was no damage reported. In recent years, a series of tremors have been felt across the country, rattling residents but with no long-term damage or injuries.
Authorities said that in case of an earthquake, anyone who might be in danger should head for an open space. People unable to leave their building should enter their bombproof secure room, leaving the doors and windows open, or go into the stairwell and head down. If neither of these are options, they should shelter in the corner of a room.
The IDF Home Front Command is regularly dispatched around the world to assist in natural disasters, including earthquakes, wildfires, flooding and building collapses. A team sent to Surfside, Florida, in 2021 helped head up rescue efforts at a deadly condo collapse.
In 2020, Israel offered to send aid to Turkey following a deadly earthquake in the country, although Ankara did not accept the assistance. Relations between the two countries have since improved, and Monday’s earthquake appears much more severe.
Last year, Israel sent firefighting planes to battle a wildfire in Turkish-backed northern Cyprus, and has taken part in similar missions in Greece and Cyprus in recent years.
The Knesset is set to discuss Israel’s earthquake readiness next week.
Experts have long warned that Israel is overdue for a major earthquake that could cause significant damage to the country. The last major earthquake centered in the region took place in 1927 and killed hundreds of people.
Israel lies along the Syrian-African rift, an active fault line that runs the length of the border separating Israel and Jordan. Geological experts have recently warned that some one million homes in Israel are at risk of collapse in case of an earthquake.
According to estimates, a major earthquake could cause about 7,000 deaths and 145,000 injuries, with 170,000 people left homeless and 320,000 buildings damaged.
Last year, Israel held an earthquake drill in a number of towns and cities throughout the country.
Times of Israel staff and AP contributed to this report.