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Minor earthquake rattles Jerusalem

The 3.5 magnitude tremor comes on the backdrop of devastating quakes that killed thousands of people in Turkey and Syria.

A view of the Old City of Jerusalem, Dec. 17, 2019. Photo by Moshe Shai/Flash90.
A view of the Old City of Jerusalem, Dec. 17, 2019. Photo by Moshe Shai/Flash90.

A 3.5 magnitude earthquake was felt in Jerusalem and surrounding areas overnight Tuesday, coming on the backdrop of the massive tremors that killed more than 10,000 people in Turkey and Syria early on Monday.

The quake struck at 11:14 p.m. local time and was centered 15 kilometers (9 miles) southeast of Ariel in Judea, according to the Israeli Energy Ministry.

Residents reported feeling the quake in the capital, Beit Shemesh and Mevaseret Zion regions, among others.

The IDF Home Front Command’s earthquake alert system was not activated because the temblor did not pose a danger.

There were no reports of injuries or damage, aside from limited cracks in the walls of residential apartments.

The Knesset Internal Affairs and Environment Committee earlier this week called for an emergency meeting to review the country’s earthquake preparedness in light of the devastation in Turkey and Syria. Concurrently, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has directed National Security Council head Tzachi Hanegbi to “update and reiterate the steps we need to take.”

State Comptroller Matanyahu Englman on Monday urged the government not to delay, saying the deadly earthquakes in the region should be viewed as a warning.

“Do not wait for such a disaster to occur in Israel. Act immediately on the country’s preparedness for earthquakes,” he said in a statement, adding that it was perhaps the last opportunity to do so.

Israel is located along the Great Rift Valley, an active fault line that runs from the Red Sea to the Jordan River, determining the border between Israel and Jordan. This geologic fault presents several significant hazards for the area, including frequent minor earthquakes and the potential for more serious seismic events.

Indeed, Israel had a long history of earthquakes, with a major one occurring approximately every 100 years. The last major earthquake to hit was in 1927, 96 years ago. That quake, which had a magnitude of 6.2, claimed 284 lives and injured 940.

A 2018 report by the previous comptroller estimated that a severe earthquake could result in 7,000 casualties and leave 170,000 people homeless. A report from last year found that 600,000 buildings in Israel do not meet the standard for earthquake resistance.

Meanwhile, an Israel Defense Forces delegation arrived in Turkey on Wednesday morning to set up a field hospital. 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 team will also assist a 150-member Home Front Command delegation that started operating on the ground in Turkey on Tuesday.

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