Israel offers aid to Turkey in wake of massive earthquake
Defense Minister Barak instructs top official to contact Ankara, despite the deep diplomatic crisis that has engulfed the two nations in recent years.
Israel has offered to aid the Turkish government in any way it can after a massive earthquake shook the Turkish southeast, Defense Minister Ehud Barak said on Sunday.
An earthquake measuring 7.3 in magnitude hit near Van in southeastern Turkey earlier Sunday, with state-run media initially reporting some buildings had collapsed and 50 people had been injured.
Turkey's Kandilli Observatory estimated a few hours after the earthquake struck that some 500 to 1,000 people were killed.
The Geophysical Institute of Israel indicated that the quake was also felt in residential high rises in central Tel Aviv.
Following word of the massive jolt, Barak instructed the head of the Defense Ministry's diplomatic-security bureau, Amos Gilad, to contact Turkish officials and offer them "any aid that they may need."
Meanwhile, Foreign Ministry officials have also initiated contact with Ankara in order to estimate the extent of aid required, if at all.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor indicated that, following orders by Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, he had contacted Turkish authorities, saying "Israel's embassy in Ankara had already issued the offer to Turkish officials."
Palmor said Israel was willing to provide "anything from food, medicine, medical staff and equipment and search-and-rescue teams." He said Israel was awaiting Ankara's reply.
Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Benny Gantz instructed the IDF's Home Front Command to prepare for the possible launching of a special delegation to the Turkish disaster zone.
Ties between Israel and Turkey have taken a dramatic turn for the worse ever since Israel's raid on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla, which resulted in the death of nine Turkish nationals.
Israel has repeatedly refused to apologize for the incident, since it viewed the flotilla as a Turkey-sponsored provocation.
However, despite recent tensions, Turkey offered its aid during a massive wildfire which consumed a large part of Israel's Carmel region late last year, eventually sending several firefighting aircraft.