Israel Claimed Iran Refused Its Offer for Humanitarian Aid. Red Cross Says Otherwise

Sources close to Netanyahu said Iran's 'true face' was revealed when it refused Israeli earthquake aid, but according to the Red Cross, Iran didn't even receive his offer

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FILE PHOTO: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gives an address at the London Stock Exchange in the City of London, Friday, Nov. 3, 2017.
FILE PHOTO: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gives an address at the London Stock Exchange in the City of London, Friday, Nov. 3, 2017. Credit: Matt Dunham/AP

Israel did not receive an “immediate refusal” from Iran or Iraq following its offer to send humanitarian aid after last week’s earthquake, contrary to statements made by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office.

During Netanyahu's speech to the Jewish Federations of North America General Assembly in Los Angeles on Tuesday, the prime minister announced Israel offered to help the earthquake victims, an act he said indicates Israel's moral values.

Soon after, the Prime Minister's Office sent reporters a statement saying Iran immediately refused the offer, thus showing the true face of its regime. However, an inquiry by Haaretz revealed that this statement is not true.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), the organization that received Israel’s offer, confirmed to Haaretz that neither Iraq nor Iran asked for help or were even aware of the Israeli offer. They also said the Israeli government was told as much.

“We can confirm that the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) received an offer of support from the Israeli authorities. They expressed their willingness to send relief supplies and technical assistance to the victims of the earthquake at the Iran-Iraq border, through the ICRC.

Iranians sit outside damaged homes after salvaging furniture and household appliances in the town of Sarpol-e Zahab in the western Kermanshah province near the border with Iraq, on November 15, 2017, Credit: ATTA KENARE/AFP

"Neither of the two affected countries, however, has at this stage requested international assistance to respond to the needs, and we informed the Israeli authorities accordingly. Should this change, the ICRC stands ready to support its Red Cross Movement partners in providing a humanitarian response and in channeling donations accordingly,” Marc Kilstein, ICRC’s Washington-based spokesperson, told Haaretz in a written statement.

On Tuesday evening, in his speech via satellite to the GA, Netanyahu said: “I just saw the pictures of the destruction in Iran and Iraq from this week’s earthquake. And I saw these heartbreaking images of men and women and children buried under the rubble. So I am proud to announce tonight that a few hours ago, I directed that we offer the Red Cross medical assistance for the Iraqi and Iranian victims of this disaster.”

Netanyahu added: “I’ve said many times that we have no quarrel with the people of Iran. Our quarrel is only with the tyrannical regime that holds them hostage and threatens our destruction. But our humanity is greater than their hatred. Israel continues to be a light unto the nations and this is what I am proud of. And all of you can be proud of Israel’s morals, and Israel’s might.”

Immediately after the speech, an official from the Prime Minister's Office released a statement to Israeli reporters, to be attributed to a “source within the Prime Minister's Office.” The statement said, “Israel approached the Red Cross and received an immediate refusal. This shows the true face of the Iranian regime.”

Alyona Synenko, spokesperson of the Israeli branch of the ICRC, explained that when a natural disaster happens and a country requires international aid, there is a procedure, of which Israel is aware. If an affected country cannot deal with a disaster, it will approach ICRC and ask for help, and ICRC will then coordinate the assistance from donor countries and aid organizations.

However, Syneko explained, this was not the case after last Sunday’s earthquake hit the Iranian-Iraqi border, killing at least 530 people and leaving 70,000 homeless. Generally speaking, Syneko said, “It is extremely important for us that humanitarian assistance stay away from politics. It must be based on the needs of the people.”

David Keyes, the prime minister's spokesperson for foreign media, said in response that "Israel offered aid on [November] 14 and was told by the Red Cross that Iran did not want any help."