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IDF delegation lands in earthquake-stricken Turkey to set up field hospital

Israeli emergency personnel already operating on the ground rescued four people from under the rubble.

Members of an Israel Defense Forces delegation search for survivors in earthquake-ravaged Turkey, Feb. 7, 2023. Credit: Israeli Foreign Ministry.
Members of an Israel Defense Forces delegation search for survivors in earthquake-ravaged Turkey, Feb. 7, 2023. Credit: Israeli Foreign Ministry.

An Israel Defense Forces delegation arrived in Turkey on Wednesday morning to set up a field hospital in the wake of the massive earthquakes this week that have so far claimed the lives of more than 11,000 people there and in neighboring Syria.

The delegation comprises more than 230 medical and emergency response experts and was sent as part of the IDF’s “Operation Olive Branches” humanitarian effort in Turkey.

The delegation is being led by Col. Elad Edri, head of the Home Front Command Search and Rescue Brigade.

The team will also assist a 150-member Home Front Command delegation that started operating on the ground in Turkey on Tuesday.

United Hatzalah of Israel has also sent a delegation of 25 first responders to Turkey.

Maj. Gen. Rafi Milo, head of the Home Front Command, defined the overall mission as providing immediate assistance through life-saving efforts.

“This will include quickly mapping out the sites hit by the earthquake. In parallel, the delegation is preparing to provide medical assistance to individuals rescued from the sites hit by the earthquake,” said the IDF.

The military said Wednesday morning that during overnight operations it had rescued a young Turkish woman from under the rubble.

At least three other people have since been saved by the Israeli humanitarian delegation.

In recent years, the IDF Home Front Command has developed a system that can generate a situational picture of very large areas, which links together first responders, the government, the Home Front Command’s rescue teams and local authorities.

Parts of the system have already been used to save lives abroad. Home Front Command crews that traveled overseas to take part in international rescue missions have used it to help coordinate activities all over the world, from Japan, Nepal, Mexico, Brazil to closer to home in Cyprus. The system is able to display more than 250 layers of data and show the real-time locations of emergency responders.

The IDF has led 31 search and rescue delegations abroad over the past 40 years.

A massive 7.8-magnitude earthquake ripped through Turkey and Syria early Monday, toppling buildings and causing shockwaves felt across the region, including Cyprus, Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan, Iraq and Israel.

The quake struck just after 4 a.m. local time, 23 kilometers (14.3 miles) east of Nurdagi, Gaziantep Province, at a depth of 17.9 kilometers (11.1 miles), and was followed just over 10 minutes later by a 6.7 magnitude aftershock, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

Just before 1 p.m. local time, a 7.5 magnitude quake struck 4 kilometers (2.5 miles) southeast of Ekinözü, Turkey, at a depth of 10 kilometers (6.2 miles), said the USGS.

The USGS has since recorded dozens of aftershocks of greater than 4.0 magnitude, which along with harsh winter weather have made recovery efforts more difficult.

Emergency medical services in Turkey and Syria said that the death toll was expected to rise in both countries as potentially thousands of people remained trapped under collapsed structures.

Israeli President Isaac Herzog spoke on Monday with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and asked him to relay encouragement to the entire Turkish people following the disaster.

Erdoğan thanked Herzog for his good wishes and for the rescue mission and underscored that this assistance will greatly aid the many forces that have been operating on the ground for many hours already, Herzog’s office said. Erdoğan also emphasized his gratitude for Israel’s stand alongside its friend in this difficult hour.

Earlier on Monday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel received a request to provide humanitarian equipment to assist Syrians injured in the earthquake in Syria, adding, “I have instructed that this be done as well.”

Hebrew media reports said the request was passed on by Russia, adding that Israel would send medicines, tents, blankets and other equipment to the Assad regime. Ynet cited a senior political source as saying that Jerusalem would also agree to treat injured Syrians if asked to do so.

However, the Syrian Al-Watan newspaper said Damascus denied Israeli reports about a request for help from Israel.

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