Israel launches 'Operation Olive Branches' to aid Syria and Turkey after earthquakes leave over 2000 dead

Istanbul Rabbi says no Jewish fatalities in Turkey, but potential property damage is unclear


Israel has launched Operation Olive Branches to dispense aid to Turkey and Syria as two major earthquakes have killed over 2000 people on Monday.

The JC understands that a small Israeli team is currently on the ground to gain initial picture of the situation, before a larger delegation is expected to arrive tonight.

“On behalf of all citizens of Israel, I send condolences to the citizens of Turkey at this difficult time following the earthquake that struck our region. At the request of the Turkish government, I have instructed all the authorities to immediately prepare for the provision of medical and search and rescue assistance,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced on Monday morning.

The Likud leader also confirmed Israel would direct aid to Syria in light of the devastation, telling reporters: “a request was also received to do this for the many who were injured in the earthquake in Syria,” adding that he has: “instructed that this be done as well."

The impacted region of Syria is divided between rebel forces and Bashar al-Assad's regime. Israel maintains no official relations with the Syrian government and remains technically at war with its northeastern neighbour.

Israel's public broadcaster Kan reports that the government has decided to send blankets, tents and medicine to Syria following the request for aid.

Meanwhile Channel 13 has alleged that Moscow requested the aid on Syria's behalf.

Israeli President Isaac Herzog said, “I am deeply saddened by the enormous disaster that has befallen Türkiye following last night’s earthquake. My condolences to President [Recep Tayyip] Erdoğan and the Turkish people for the loss of life and destruction of livelihoods.

“The State of Israel always stands ready to assist in every way possible. Our hearts are with the grieving families and the Turkish people at this painful moment,” he added.

Israeli Defence Minister Yoav Gallant on Monday instructed his ministry and the IDF to immediately ready emergency aid to be sent to Turkey under the auspices of the Home Front Command.

Israeli Foreign Minister Eli convened a meeting at the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem on Monday morning to discuss ways to provide aid to Turkey.

“On behalf of the State of Israel, I would like to express deep sorrow to the Turkish people for the severe earthquake that struck southern Turkey tonight,” said Cohen, adding: “Our hearts go out to the victims, and we wish the injured a speedy recovery.”

Magen David Adom, Israel's national emergency medical service has reached out to offer aid in light of the day’s events.

MDA Director General Eli Bin approached the President of the Turkish Red Crescent Dr. Kinik and offered humanitarian and medical aid. "We are following closely and with deep concern the results of the earthquake in southern Turkey," said MDA Director General. "We send you strength and promise that Magen David Adom will be available for any aid you may need.

United Hatzalah, another volunteer-based emergency medical service that operates across Israel, has said it plans to send a relief mission to Turkey.

Rabbi Mendy Chitrik, who heads up the Alliance of Rabbis in Islamic States has said Turkey's Jewish community members appear to be safe thus far, but he is not aware of whether any synagogues have sustained damage.

The Istanbul-based Chabad Rabbi told the JC he is currently travelling to southern Turkey.

Turkey was the first Muslim-majority nation to recognise Israel in March 1949, but their relationship has historically been rocky, with diplomatic ties only being fully normalised last year.

The country is home to one of the world's oldest continuous Jewish communities, although today the vast majority of Jews with recent ancestral links to Turkey now live in Israel.

Syria was also home to a Jewish community dating to the biblical era, but as of 2022 there are no registered Jews living in the wartorn nation.

While Israelis reported feeling the tremors in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and throughout the north there have been no injuries reported as of Monday morning.

Denise Rubin, who lives in Ra'anana in Central Israel, told the JC: "I felt the bed shake at around 3:20am and it woke my husband too.

"The room was shaking and this warning system went off announcing an earthquake

"I live on the 4th floor so we were about to wake up the kids to go downstairs and out the building but it stopped. A few people had gathered outside.

"It's not the first quake I've ever felt but it's definitely the strongest I've experienced so far," she went on.

In central Tel Aviv roads were cordoned off as authorities sought to protect people from falling debris.

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