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Israeli Humanitarian Operations

(1998 - Present)

“Providing medical assistance under emergency conditions where there are few resources and no order or protocol is far different than the ordered medical facilities where most doctors learn to treat people. Israelis are very good at this kind of medicine, and they have successfully used their skills both on the battlefield locally and in emergencies such as earthquakes and floods, where they have set up effective and successful field care operations. Not all countries can do that. Israelis have the knowledge and experience in this area. Over the past several decades, many more countries have learned how to deal with the issues that Israel was one of the pioneers in dealing with. It’s all about basic surgical and field medical skills, areas that Israel has had a lot of experience in dealing with.”

- Dr. Harald Veen, Chief Surgeon of the International Committee of the Red Cross

According to Dyonna Ginsburg, Israel’s first humanitarian action occurred on August 12, 1953, when the Israeli Navy was conducting a routine training exercise off the coast of Crete heard a distress call from the Greek island of Kefalonia following an earthquake. Four ships made the 12-hour journey, and the Israeli crews were the first responders on the scene. They provided medical treatment and evacuated survivors. They were praised by King Paul and Queen Frederica of Greece and hailed as the “sailors of salvation” and  “fleet of love and hope.” A street on the island was named “Israil.”

Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion said, “I do not know what is more important – the wartime operations of our fleet in the War of Independence or the current rescue operation in Greece.” He added, “These two missions should stand before you like a candle to show the way: To be a capable and prepared force to come to the aid of those in need at any time and hour. And, if imposed upon us, to renew the bravery of the young fleet at a time of war.”

IDF Relief Efforts Around the World

See also: humanitarian aid provided to Ukraine following the Russian invasion.

Turkey Earthquake
(February 2023)

In February 2023, a devastating earthquake caused massive damage and casualties in Turkey. The IDF sent a rescue and medical team consisting of 500 people. SmartAID-Magen Search and Rescue also sent a team of 25 search and rescue experts with specialized equipment to find and rescue people trapped beneath collapsed buildings. At least 19 people were rescued by Israelis in what the IDF called Operation Olive Branches.

(June-July 2021)

Israeli officials and disaster relief specialists flew to Miami in the wake of the collapse of the 12-story Champlain Towers South condominium building on June 24, 2021, in Surfside, Florida.



In October 2019, Israel Flying Aid delivered medical equipment and food to refugees and orphans. In September 2020, the organization brought tents, personal protection equipment for medical teams, backpack sprayers to eradicate malaria-carrying mosquitos, food, and other equipment. (Israel21c, September 21, 2020)

Nepal Earthquake
Coronavirus (2020)

Balkans Floods

IDF in Bosnia & Serbia

A magnitude 8.1 earthquake struck Nepal on April 25, 2015. In the days following, Israel sent doctors, humanitarian supplies, medical supplies, and disaster relief experts to the affected areas.

In July 2020, the Embassy of Israel in Kathmandu dispatched 400 units of personal protective equipment, 1,000 units of KN95 masks, 10,000 units of surgical masks, 5,000 pairs of surgical gloves, and 500 liters of sanitizer to the Ministry of Social Development in Province 2, which has been worst hit by the coronavirus pandemic.

IDF in Bosnia & Serbia After extreme flooding hit Serbia and Bosnia in May 2014, leaving two dozen people dead and thousands homeless, Israel sent humanitarian relief aid in the form of medicine, food, blankets, and rain gear.

Gaza Strip

Philippines Typhoons
(2013 & 2009)

IDF gaza

Though ruled by Hamas, a terror organization committed to Israel’s destruction, Israel delivers humanitarian aid, food, medical supplies and building materials to Gaza residents on a daily basis.

IDF in Haiti

Typhoons in the Philippines have claimed thousands of lives. In 2009 and 2013, Israel dispatched humanitarian aid, search & rescue squads, and medical teams to aid in both relief operations.

Turkey Earthquake

Japan Tsunami, Earthquake, Flooding
(2011 & 2018)

IDF in Turkey

An October 2011 earthquake in Turkey killed at least 400 people and left thousands homeless. Israel sent mobile homes & medical equipment for survivors at the request of the Turkish government.

When a March 2011 earthquake & tsunami devastated Japan, Israel sent aid, including a delegation of medical personnel & equipment. They also opened an advanced medical clinic for surgery.

Haiti Earthquake

Burkina Faso Floods

IDF in Haiti

Following an earthquake that nearly destroyed Haiti’s capital, Israel sent multiple medical & rescue teams to assist in operations. The IDF also established the first field hospital in Port-au-Prince.

IDF in Turkey

In the wake of massive flooding that left hundreds of thousands homeless, Israel sent shipments of tents, blankets, medicines, and baby food. These efforts were coordinated by MASHAV.

Hurricane Katrina

Kosovo War Refugees


Israel took an active role in supporting the victims of Hurricane Katrina, a devastating storm that caused major flooding and destroyed many cities and towns in the southeastern United States.

IDF medical mission established a field hospital and an emergency room to assist Albanian refugees fleeing from war-torn Kosovo into Macedonia. Emergency supplies were also sent by Israel to help refugees.

Central America Floods

Kenya Terrorism

Israel dispatched a team of Spanish-speaking doctors and nurses to Honduras, Nicaragua, El Salvador, and Guatemala in the aftermath of severe flooding in those areas caused by Hurricane Mitch.

IDF kenya mall

Nearly 200 members of the elite Israeli search & rescue unit were the first international team to arrive on the scene of the U.S. embassy bombing in Nairobi. The mission succeeded in saving numerous lives.

Source: Dyonna Ginsburg, “An accidental operation,” Jerusalem Report, (May 8, 2023).