The Israel Defense Forces’ “Operation Olive Branches” in Turkey had as of Saturday rescued 19 people from the rubble caused by the massive earthquakes that killed more than 28,000 people in that country and Syria.
The IDF’s 400-plus-strong delegation is being supported by emergency medical specialists from the defense and health ministries, fire and rescue services, Magen David Adom, United Hatzalah and Zaka, among others.
On Friday evening, Israeli rescue teams pulled a 9-year-old boy from under a collapsed building after he had been trapped for more than 120 hours.
The IDF identified the boy as Ridvan, whose 14-year-old sister, Romisa, and father Mohammed had been rescued by the Israeli team earlier in the week.
The IDF has sent 230 medical and emergency response experts to set up a field hospital in Kahramanmaraş, in addition to a 150-member Home Front Command team that continues to operate on the ground.
The medical team at the field hospital has treated nearly 200 people so far, including Syrian refugees living in the country.
IDF Medical Corps commander Lt. Col. Aziz Ibrahim treated a 4-year-old Syrian boy from the city of Homs.
“This is an area with a lot of Syrian refugees. This boy was rescued three or four days ago, his whole family was killed, and he was brought by his uncle. We treated him and calmed him down. He came in a moderate to serious condition,” said Ibrahim.
“I found myself taking out halva from our rations and giving it to him, and he loved it,” Ibrahim said, referring to a popular sesame snack. “Of course, I also spoke to him in Arabic.”
Ibrahim said the boy’s uncle told him, “You Israelis treat us better than our people.”
While efforts continue, experts say the chances of finding additional survivors one week after the first major earthquake struck are growing fainter.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has commended the work of the IDF search and rescue delegation.
“You are representing the mission with the most experience on the international level. You have much experience, which has proven itself. You are carrying out a humanitarian mission of the highest order and are bringing much honor to us and the State of Israel and are showing Israel’s true face to the world,” Netanyahu told Col. (res.) Golan Vach of the IDF Home Front Command, the head of the delegation, in a phone call.
“Please convey my greetings to all members of the mission. Do what you can to save lives and be careful,” he added.