PM: Haiti aid 'expression of our heritage'

PM hails "best traditions" of Jewish people, referring to help provided to earthquake-stricken country.

Haiti school collapse 248.88 (photo credit: AP)
Haiti school collapse 248.88
(photo credit: AP)

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu spoke of the "best traditions of theJewish people" when referring to the help Israeli rescue and medical teamswere providing following last Tuesday's devastating earthquake.

Speaking at thestart of Sunday's weekly cabinet meeting, Netanyahu called the quake a"horrific tragedy," saying it was 's duty to help the Haitianpeople.

"What happened there is a large-scale disaster of very greatproportions," he said. "The lack of protective measures only deepenedthe tragedy. I think that it is our obligation, as the State of Israel, as thestate of the Jewish people, to mobilize immediately - which we have done."

"As soon as I learned of the dimensions of the disaster, I ordered thata team be dispatched," he continued. "It left with the characteristicspeed of the IDF, in coordination with the Foreign Ministry."

He said the defense establishment had sent a team which had begun to workand was already saving lives.

"I think that this is in the best tradition of the Jewish People; thisis the true covenant of

the State of Israel and the Jewish people," headded, stressing that it followed operations carried out in and .

"Despite being a small country, we have responded with a bigheart," continued the prime minister. "The fact is, I know, that thiswas an expression of our Jewish heritage and the Jewish ethic of helping one'sfellow man. I hope that the team saves lives and that succeedsin recovering from this awful tragedy."

Early Sunday, rescuers pulled a dehydrated but otherwise uninjured womanfrom the ruins of a luxury hotel in the Haitian capital, an event greeted withapplause from onlookers witnessing rare good news in a city otherwise filledwith corpses, rubble and desperation.

"It's a little miracle," the woman's husband, Reinhard Riedl, saidafter hearing she was alive in the wreckage. "She's one tough cookie. Sheis indestructible."

For many, though, the five days since the magnitude-7.0 quake hit haveturned into an aching wait for the food, water and medical care slowly makingits way from an overwhelmed airport rife with political squabbles. And whileaid is reaching the country, growing impatience among the suffering has spawnedsome violence.

Nobody knows how many died in Tuesday's quake. 's government alone hasalready recovered 20,000 bodies - not counting those recovered by independentagencies or relatives themselves, Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive told TheAssociated Press.

The Pan American Health Organization now says 50,000 to 100,000 peopleperished in the quake.

Bellerive said 100,000 would "seem to be the minimum."