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4.4 magnitude earthquake off Lebanese coast rattles Israel

There were no reports of injuries or damage in the Jewish state.

Members of the Knesset Guard, IDF Home Front Command, Israel Fire and Rescue Services and Magen David Adom participate in a drill near Ashkelon simulating response to an earthquake, Dec. 19, 2019. Photo by Yaniv Nadav/Flash90.
Members of the Knesset Guard, IDF Home Front Command, Israel Fire and Rescue Services and Magen David Adom participate in a drill near Ashkelon simulating response to an earthquake, Dec. 19, 2019. Photo by Yaniv Nadav/Flash90.

A 4.4 magnitude earthquake centered off the coast of Lebanon in the Eastern Mediterranean was felt in Israel early Wednesday morning.

There were no reports of injuries or damages in the Jewish state.

The quake struck 73 kilometers northwest of Sidon, Lebanon at a depth of 10.0 kilometers, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

On Monday, several people were killed and more than 200 injured in Turkey by a 6.4-magnitude earthquake centered in the country’s Hatay province that was also felt in Lebanon and Israel.

Turkey is still reeling from a pair of massive earthquakes on Feb. 6 that, together with hundreds of aftershocks, left more than 40,000 people dead in what the World Health Organization has called the region’s worst natural disaster in a century.

Two additional quakes hit the Middle East around the same time, both of which were also felt in Israel, according to the Geological Survey of Israel.

In response to the deadly Feb. 6 quakes, the Israel Defense Forces launched “Operation Olive Branches” to Turkey, which rescued 19 people from the rubble. The Israeli military’s 400-plus-strong delegation was supported by emergency medical specialists from the defense and health ministries, fire and rescue services, Magen David Adom, United Hatzalah and ZAKA, among others.

Israel has scrambled to improve its earthquake preparedness in the wake of the Turkey disaster, with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu directing National Security Council head Tzachi Hanegbi to “update and reiterate the steps we need to take.”

The Knesset Internal Affairs and Environment Committee called for an emergency meeting, and State Comptroller Matanyahu Englman urged the government not to delay, saying the wave of deadly earthquakes in the region should be viewed as a warning.

Experts have stressed that Israel’s current state of earthquake readiness is concerning. A 2018 report by the previous comptroller estimated that a major earthquake could result in 7,000 casualties and leave 170,000 people homeless. A report from last year found that 600,000 buildings in the country do not meet the standard for earthquake resistance.

Israel is located along the Great Rift Valley, an active geological fault line presenting several significant hazards for the area, including frequent minor earthquakes and the potential for more serious seismic events.

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