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Israel Humanitarian Operations: Earthquake Relief Efforts in Turkey

(Updated November 2011)

On October 23, 2011 a 7.2-magnitude earthquake hit the eastern part of Turkey, killing at least 432 people and injuring another 1,352. The intensity of the earthquake in a region without stable urban development led to the crumbling of thousands of homes, leaving even more people homeless and lacking basic humanitarian supplies.

Immediately after the disaster, Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman had his office prepare to send aid to Turkey. Ankara initially rejected the equipment – accepting at first only the help of its neighboring countries Iran, Bulgaria and Azerbaijan – but on Tuesday a Turkish foreign ministry official requested prefabricated housing and tents from more than 30 countries including Israel.

Both the Israel Defense Forces and the Foreign Ministry immediately sprang to action in order to fill the urgent request and was the first of the 30 countries to respond to Turkey's call. Though Israel has a long and distinguished record of successful search and rescue missions to find survivors in the aftermath of natural disasters, Turkey did not ask for manpower assistance.

Despite the heightening of political and military tensions between the two former allies, Israel did not hesistate in procuring and sending the necessary aid. "Given the sensitive of the situation, this is a good step forward," an Israeli official involved in the affair told a news agency. "In these situations you put all the problems and politics aside. We hope everything is carried out as planned," he said.

On October 24, Israeli President Shimon Peres called Turkish President Abdullah Gul to offer Israeli assistance and convey his condolences for the loss of life. President Gul thanked President Peres for the call and updated him on the rescue efforts and conveyed his hope that Turkish rescue forces would succeed in their mission.

On October 30, two more Israeli planes carrying supplies and housing containers were flown to the earthquake stricken areas in Turkey. “We are working in full coordination with our Turkish colleagues and will keep on extending any help needed. Now, our concern is to see to it that the aid will get into Turkish hands as soon as possible,” Nizar Amer, spokesperson for the Israeli Embassy, said yesterday.

On November 18, an Israeli cargo ship unloaded more humanitarian aid for the earthquake victims at the Port of Mersin in Turkey. At the request of the Turkish government, the Israel Defense Ministry put together this ship with more than 1,000 mobile homes for use by the many thousands of people who have been left homeless due to the natural disasters.

Sources: YNet, Hurriyet Daily, Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Hurriyet Daily, Jerusalem Post