IDF air force intelligence Unit 9900 is using its cutting-edge satellite capabilities and analytical visual training to assist with ongoing rescue efforts in Turkey, the military announced on Thursday night.
According to the IDF, this assistance is helping IDF search and rescue units better target where they should focus their efforts most.
Lieutenant "A" of Unit 9900 said, "I am proud to take part in Israeli efforts to save lives in Turkey. We are using our mapping capabilities which are usually used for special forces operations in order to save lives wherever needed."
As of Thursday, the IDF Search and Rescue Brigade had rescued 17 Turkish citizens as part of Operation Olive Branch in response to the disastrous earthquake that struck Turkey and Syria.
IDF tells tales of Israeli rescue volunteers
Also, on Thursday the IDF released the stories of six officers involved in the rescue operations, including Lt. Col. (res.) Sohar Fisher, Senior Warrant Officer Yossi Azaria, Maj. Shai, Maj. "A", Capt. Roi Barak and Capt. Hila Levi.
Levi said that she had just finished a course which had earned her a promotion from lieutenant to captain, but did not have time to attend her promotion ceremony due to the immediacy of leaving with the Turkey rescue team.
Due to missing her promotion ceremony, in a photo of Levi, her uniform still shows her rank as a lieutenant even though she has technically been promoted.
Further, Levi said that no matter how well prepared she and others thought they were for the scenes they would confront from the earthquake, actually seeing the scale of the disaster up close was beyond anything she could have imagined.
The IDF has thus far sent 15 aircraft filled with hundreds of tons of medical and other supplies, along with a 150-person rescue team and a 230-person medical field hospital team.
The medical field hospital was progressing to service more injured persons on Thursday.
Tuesday-Thursday witnessed some heart-warming moments, in the midst of the broader disaster, as riveting videos came out showing IDF rescue workers extricating Turkish citizens who were trapped in collapsed buildings and otherwise facing near-certain death.
IDF rescue chief: Friday could be cut-off point for survivors
On Wednesday, IDF Col. Golan Voch had told Israeli media representatives that the next two days or so past the 72-hour point since the earthquake hit would be critical for finding other survivors - meaning that Friday could be close to a cut-off point.
On Thursday, the IDF saved a seven-year-old girl who had been trapped in a fallen residence, reuniting her with her uncle.
In another incident, IDF rescuers found a two-year-old boy under the rubble of a collapsed structure.
A member of the IDF rescue team, Capt. Alon Hominer said the engineering operation lasted several hours.
He said the IDF had received information from Turkey “that there were sounds of a baby crying, and we joined the mission.” Hominer said they had expended “great medical and engineering efforts” to save the boy.
Overnight between Tuesday and Wednesday, the IDF rescue team located a shaft from a building that had completely collapsed. The rescuers crawled through the shaft and heard voices calling out for help.
Eventually, the rescuers were able to discern that there was a 12-year-old boy stuck alone, after four of his family members had been tragically killed in the same room where he remained.
After four-and-a-half hours, they were able to save the boy.
An IDF official said bringing him through the shaft was like the boy being reborn.
IDF Spokesman Brig.-Gen. Ran Kochav had said the rescue operations were proceeding at full-throttle despite extremely difficult, inclement weather conditions, including emergency regulations to ensure soldier-rescuers avoid harm as a result of the cold weather.
Col. Voch had said, “The delegation has 150 rescuers and is also building a field hospital. We are in the early days of searching to find and rescue people who are trapped. We did this very successfully so far."
He said that 10 other countries have sent delegations, but that Israel’s preparedness and effectiveness is among the highest level. To date, he said that only Azerbaijan has sent a larger delegation, with 400 personnel to assist.
Voch said, “We will go over 420 personnel soon. All Israeli citizens can be proud. The speed with which we got to the field has been impressive and we hope we will continue with success going forward.”
Asked if there will be little hope to find more survivors soon, given that the 72-hour point will be crossed soon, the colonel said, “All the time we are finding more people. In the past, we have found [survivors] even after 100 hours. Some buildings have maintained some heat, and some survivors have other items to stay warm.”
He said they will not give up for five to six days, and that the rescuers expect to stay in Turkey for nine to 14 days.
The medical delegation is being led by IDF Col. Elad Edri and includes a mix of doctors, nurses and paramedics, including some from the Health Ministry.
A statement indicated that all members of the delegation would receive the appropriate vaccinations for avoiding transmitting or contracting diseases globally.
Members of the medical delegation are expected to remain in Turkey longer than the search and rescue team, Voch said.