IDF welcomed home from Haiti

By Jessica Elgot, January 28, 2010
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The IDF delegation touches down in Israel

The IDF delegation touches down in Israel

The IDF delegation to Haiti were given a heroes’ welcome on their return to Israel.

Senior officials of the Israel Defense Forces and the government attended the ceremony as the 200-man team touched down at Ben Gurion airport.

More than 200,000 people are believed to have died in the devastating earthquake in the capital Port-au-Prince on January 12.

The forces made the decision to pull out of the country after the arrival of more aid organizations and more US emergency workers. They have brought back a 5-year-old child from Haiti to Israel for heart surgery.

The IDF have also left more than 30 tons of medical equipment and supplies behind to help aid workers still in the country.

Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said during the ceremony: "You raised peoples’ spirits; you raised the name of the State of Israel and the name of the IDF.

"Precisely during these days, during which there are those who conspire against us, and distort and degrade the name of the IDF and the name of the State of Israel, you showed the world the true spirit of the IDF.”

Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi added: "You have merited praise from all over the world and have turned into a source of pride for every Jew and every Israeli.

“Lately there have been those who complain about the IDF and have chosen to muddy its face, and complain against its morals and ethics.

“In your work you have proven the opposite to be true - our values guide us to cross continents in order to save lives. That is what guides us today and will continue to guide us in the future.

"As commander of this army, I was excited to represent you."

Former US President Bill Clinton met Israeli President Shimon Peres at the meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos to express his thanks to the Israeli forces in Haiti, claiming he did not know what they would have done without the IDF field hospital.

He said: "In the name of the aid workers that operated in Haiti, in the name of the people who live there, and on a personal level I want to thank, we all want to thank, Israel from the bottom of our hearts."

Mr Peres said: "Israel will continue to employ all of her abilities to assist the reconstruction efforts in Haiti."

Last updated: 10:40am, January 29 2010