Israel is preparing to send search and rescue personnel and humanitarian aid to Morocco after an earthquake killed more than 2,000 people in the North African country on Friday.
The earthquake’s epicenter was in the Atlas Mountains southwest of Marrakesh and measured 6.8 on the Richter scale. According to the U.S. Geological Survey it was the strongest to hit the area in more than 120 years.
At least 2,012 people were killed and 2,059 have been injured, 1,404 of whom were in critical condition, the Royal Moroccan Armed Forces said on late Saturday night, citing Morocco’s Interior Ministry.
The number is expected to climb as rescue workers reach isolated areas.
“Following the tragic earthquake in Morocco, the Prime Minister has instructed all government bodies and forces to provide any necessary assistance to the people of Morocco, including preparations for sending an aid delegation to the area,” said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office on Saturday night.
“The people of Israel extend their hands to our friends, the people of Morocco, at this difficult time and pray for their well-being. We will help in any way we can,” the statement added.
Meanwhile, Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant instructed the Israel Defense Forces “to prepare to provide immediate emergency assistance via the rescue bodies in the Home Front Command.”
Gallant said that he had spoken with his Moroccan counterpart, Minister Delegate in Charge of National Defense Abdellatif Loudiyi, following the disaster, expressing his sincere condolences to King Mohammed VI and the entire Moroccan kingdom.
“A significant part of the Abraham Accords is our commitment to stand by our partners during difficult times. The State of Israel is prepared to assist the Kingdom of Morocco,” the minister said.
Israeli President Isaac Herzog also expressed his condolences, saying that “our hearts are with the Moroccan people.”
“On behalf of the people of Israel, I send deepest condolences to His Majesty King Mohammed VI & all the people of Morocco for the tragic loss of life in last night’s earthquake. We pray for the injured. Israel is ready to help as needed,” he wrote.
However, Israeli search and rescue teams and humanitarian relief delegations were waiting for a response from Moroccan officials before leaving Israel.
Israeli emergency NGO IsraAID said on Saturday that it was also prepared to join in the relief efforts, with an aid delegation heading to the Marrakesh area on Sunday. The delegation was in contact with the local Jewish community, the organization said.
Israel’s Health Ministry also said that it was ready to join any relief efforts in Morocco and Israeli media reported on Sunday that Magen David Adom emergency services is sending two rescue teams to the country—one to operate a field hospital and the other perform search and rescue operations.
Israel’s Foreign Ministry said on Saturday night that all 479 Israeli citizens in Morocco had been accounted for and there were no reports of Israeli casualties.
The ministry also said that Israeli consul in Rabat Dorit Avidani had been dispatched to the western Moroccan region to assess the region’s needs.
“We are prepared to send a rescue mission and humanitarian aid to the disaster area,” Foreign Minister Eli Cohen said on Sunday morning.
“I thank the employees of the office for their dedicated activity around the clock, and send my condolences to the people of Morocco for the heavy disaster,” added Cohen. “Our hearts are with the people of Morocco.”
Israel and Morocco normalized relations in December 2020 as part of the U.S.-brokered Abraham Accords. In July, Israel recognized Moroccan sovereignty over the Western Sahara, which has paved the way for Morocco to upgrade its liaison office in Tel Aviv to an embassy.
An estimated one million Israelis are either from Morocco or are of Moroccan Jewish descent. Approximately 3,000 Jews currently live in the North African country.
More than 200,000 Israelis visited Morocco in 2022, as coronavirus travel restrictions came to an end.