Ankara on Tuesday finally accepted Israel’s offer of earthquake aid, two days
after a devastating temblor, and following a number of rebuffed Israeli
government offers of assistance.
According to a Foreign Ministry
spokesman, the Turks made a request through the embassy in Ankara for Israel to
send mobile homes to the devastated Van province.
Erdogan visits quake disaster, says he fears for villages
Search and rescue in Turkey
The Defense Ministry
chartered a civilian Boeing 747 on Tuesday night to take seven mobile homes to
Turkey on Wednesday. According to a Defense Ministry official, this will
be the first of a number of planes that will be sent carrying aid.
official would not confirm if a civilian plane – instead of an IDF transport –
was used because of a Turkish ban on Israeli military flights over Turkey since
the Mavi Marmara incident in May 2010.
Since the earthquake hit on
Sunday, both President Shimon Peres and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu
contacted their Turkish counterparts and offered assistance.
point the Turks have not asked for Israeli personnel to help rescue and recovery
The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee also announced
on Monday it has started collecting money to “ensure the victims’ immediate
needs are addressed.”
“Our hearts go out to the people of Turkey at this
tragic time and we offer our condolences to the families of those lost in the
earthquake,” said Steven Schwager, JDC’s chief executive
“Building off our historic work in Turkey, the
disaster-preparedness training we have provided in the past, and the strength of
our partnership with the Turkish Jewish community, we are responding quickly and
strategically to help victims in their time of need.”
After a massive 7.6
magnitude earthquake struck northwestern Turkey in 1999, Israel dispatched a
search and rescue team of some 250 people, plus a field hospital.
Sunday, IDF Chief of General Staff Lt.- Gen. Benny Gantz ordered the Home Front
Command to prepare a mission to head out to Turkey, despite the country’s
refusal of aid at the time. The army said it was preparing a mission just in
case Ankara changed its mind. Defense Minister Ehud Barak set up a small
team in the ministry on Tuesday to look at what other aid can be supplied, and
how to best get it there.
One Foreign Ministry source warned against
reading any diplomatic significance into the Turkish acceptance of the Israeli
assistance, saying all this showed was that there was a massive humanitarian
tragedy and a real need for help in dealing with it. The number of dead in the
earthquake rose Tuesday to over 430, with that figure expected to
Turkey sent a firefighting airplane to Israel last December to help
put out the Mount Carmel Forest fire. This gesture did not lead to a
breakthrough in thawing the tensions between Israel and Turkey, though initially
there was some hope it would do so.