Israel announced it would send aid to Turkey and Syria after a 7.8 magnitude earthquake hit the Turkey-Syria border region on Monday killing more than 1,500 people. Syria and Israel never reached a peace agreement and do not have any diplomatic relations.
“There has been a very severe earthquake in Türkiye – which was also felt in other areas – in the past day. In accordance with the request of the Turkish government, I have directed the dispatch of search and rescue, and medical teams,” said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
“This is what we do around the world and this is what we do in areas close to us,” he added. “Since a request was also received to do this – for the many who were injured in the earthquake in Syria, I have instructed that this be done as well.”
The earthquake first hit at 4:17 AM local time at a depth of 11 miles. Numerous moderate to very strong aftershocks were registered, including one of magnitude 6.7 that struck 15 minutes later. Another intense aftershock with a magnitude of 5.6 then occurred 19 minutes after the main quake.
Just before 1 p.m. local time another powerful 7.5 magnitude quake struck 4 kilometers (2.5 miles) southeast of Ekinözü, Turkey, at a depth of 10 kilometers (6.2 miles), said the USGS.
Israelis reported feeling both tremors in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and throughout the North. No damage was reported.
At least 1,500 people have been reported killed. Thousands of people were injured and many are still trapped under the rubble. Rescue operations are in progress.
The population in this region resides in structures that are extremely vulnerable to earthquake shaking, though some resistant structures exist.
During a press conference held on Monday morning, Turkish Vice President Fuat Oktay said over 1,700 buildings collapsed.
Turkey sits on top of two major fault lines and earthquakes are frequent. This was the strongest earthquake to hit Turkey since the Erzincan M7.8 earthquake on December 27, 1939, which had more than 33 000 fatalities and close to 100 000 injured. This was the second strongest since the Northern Anatolia M7.8-8.0 earthquake on August 17, 1668, which was the most powerful earthquake in Turkey’s recorded history with approximately 8 000 fatalities. In 1999, a 7.4 magnitude earthquake killed over 17,000 in Turkey.
The earthquake was also felt in Israel though no damage was reported. The earthquake was also felt in Cyprus and Egypt.
Early in the day, Israel offered its help to Turkey,
“In the name of the State of Israel, I would like to express deep sorrow to the Turkish people over the severe earthquake that struck southern Turkey tonight,” said Foreign Minister Eli Cohen.
“Our hearts are with the casualties, and we wish a speedy recovery to the injured. I’ve instructed the Foreign Ministry to lead a rapid assistance plan to Turkey to deal with this difficult disaster,” he added.
“The security forces are ready to offer any assistance that is required,” Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said in a statement, adding that IDF emergency teams have “accumulated a lot of experience over the years in dealing with disaster areas and in the mission of saving lives.”
United Hatzalah of Israel, Israel’s national volunteer EMS organization, was also preparing to send a relief mission to Turkey.
“As soon as we heard about the scale of the destruction and tragedy, we immediately began to assess the situation and prepare an advanced jump team to provide relief in the wake of the devastating earthquake that has claimed the lives of hundreds of people,” said its CEO Eli Pollack.
A similar offer of Israeli aid after an earthquake in 2020 was refused by Turkey because of strained relations. Relations between Israel and Turkey have improved since and the two countries signed an agreement normalizing relations last August.
According to media reports, the request of aid from Syria was delivered to Israel through Russia, which has a significan military presence in the country. Syria is officially at war with Israel though Israel did render humanitarian aid during Syria’s civil war.
JNS contributed to this reporting.