Representatives from the Ministry of Defense that are to arrive in Turkey on Wednesday to provide aid in the wake of a devastating earthquake will be working alongside unlikely partners - the IHH and Iranian rescue teams.
The first Israeli aid convoy that includes seven portable structures, is to depart Wednesday afternoon from Israel to the eastern Turkish area affected by the quake three days ago. The structures are meant to provide refuge to survivors who lost their homes in the natural disaster.
Israel plans to send additional temporary structures in the coming days; however Turkey has refused to accept Israeli assistance in rescuing victims from the wreckage.
Over 2,000 medical personnel and rescue teams have assembled in the capital of the East Turkish Van region and the city of Ercis, in which over 100 houses collapsed. Many of the rescue volunteers are from Turkish non-profit organizations, 200 of which are from the IHH, the Turkish Humanitarian Relief Foundation that is best known in Israel for funding three ships that took part in a flotilla to Gaza in May 2010, one of them being the Mavi Marmara.
Nine IHH members were killed by Israeli commandoes on board the Mavi Marmara after violence broke out when the ship tried to breach Israel’s naval blockade on Gaza. The IHH is considered a terrorist group in Israel because it supports Hamas. Also, according to Israeli security sources, many senior IHH officials, including the president of the organization, Bulent Yildirim Fahmi, who was on board during the deadly raid, planned the violent confrontation in advance.
Many Turkish IHH members hold close ties with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Muslim Justice and Development Party. The IHH has set up a field kitchen for earthquake victims that is providing thousands of hot meals to Ercis residents that lost their homes.
The IHH has thus far successfully rescued three victims from the wreckage.
The IHH website, that accuses Israel of numerous “crimes”, has asked visitors to donate money for its efforts in Ercis.
Israeli representatives from the Defense Ministry may also encounter Iranian rescue teams that have flown in to assist with the aftermath of the earthquake. A Turkish official clarified that the decision to allow Iranian help was not meant as an offense to Israel but was out of necessity.
Turkey’s border with Iran is less than an hour away from the disaster, allowing Iranian rescue workers to arrive even faster than Turkish teams, most of whom are from the western part of the country.
Rescue teams continued to search for survivors from the deadly quake on Wednesday. A university student and a teacher were rescued from the ruins, but searchers said hopes of finding more people alive were diminishing.
Gozde Bahar, a 27-year-old English-language teacher was pulled out of a ruined building on Wednesday with injuries some 67 hours after the 7.2 magnitude quake. Earlier, rescuers also pulled out 18-year old university student Eyup Erdem, using tiny cameras mounted on sticks to locate him.
They broke into applause as he emerged from the wreckage after being trapped for 61 hours.
The quake that struck eastern Turkey on Sunday has killed at least 461 people.
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