At least 31 people were killed and more than 1,600 injured on Friday when a 6.8 magnitude earthquake hit eastern Turkey. Some 30 buildings collapsed in the Elazig and Malatya provinces and hundreds of residents were left homeless. The region struck by the quake, some 340 miles east of the capital Ankara, is remote and sparsely populated so officials expect that details of damage and fatalities could be slow to emerge.
More than 400 aftershocks were recorded, Turkey’s Disaster and Emergency Management Authority (Afad) said. Tremors were also felt in Syria, Lebanon, Iran, and even in Israel.
Turkey sits on top of two major faultlines and earthquakes are frequent. Two strong earthquakes struck northwest Turkey in 1999, killing around 18,000 people.
The earthquake comes two weeks after Turkey’s Foreign Ministry issued a statement condemning Jews living in Judea and Samaria.
“Israel’s approval of the construction of nearly 2,000 new houses in illegal settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories is the latest example of Israel’s unlawful, reckless approach,” the Foreign Ministry statement said. “Israel, which made it a habit to disregard the sensitivities of the international community on the issue of Palestine, continues to impound the rights of the Palestinian people with its illegitimate practices,” the statement read.
The Turkish statement came in response to a video statement by U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on January 8 at a Jerusalem policy forum in which he explained that Washington’s backing for Israel’s settlements in Judea and Samaria will advance Israeli-Palestinian peace.
“It’s important that we speak the truth when the facts lead us to it. And we are recognizing that these settlements don’t inherently violate international law,” Pompeo said.
It is important to note that Turkey has been criticized for its illegal military occupation of Northern Cyprus in 1974 and of Northern Syria in 2016 and has recently deployed over 2,000 troops to Libya.