Two days after rebuffing repeated Israeli offers of aid, Turkey on Tuesday accepted help and Israel quickly sent an aid convoy that included seven tents to shelter some of those whose homes were destroyed in Sunday’s 7.2 magnitude earthquake.
The American Jewish Joint distribution Committee is also distributing heaters to quake victims and plans to send an assessment team to the area. The JDC with its partners in Turkey, the Turkish Jewish Community and the International Blue Crescent, has operated in Turkey for nearly two decades. It provides community development support to the Jewish community, as well as a humanitarian program that includes earthquake relief, disaster preparedness training, programs for deaf children and vocational training for adults with disabilities.
In 1999, Israeli rescue teams helped to dig people from rubble following another earthquake in Turkey.
Although Israel plans to send more tents in coming days, Turkey has continued to insist that Israeli rescue crews were not needed. At least 461 people were killed in the earthquake, which left more than 100 homes collapsed in the city of Ercis.
Turkey did, however, accept help from Iranian rescue teams, which a Turkish official stressed was not a slight to Israel.
The Israeli newspaper Haaretz said the official explained that it was because Turkey’s border with Iran is less than an hour from the disaster, allowing Iranian rescue workers to reach the site even before Turkish teams.
Among the more than 2,000 medical personnel and rescue teams handling the search are many volunteers from Turkish non-profits, including 200 from the IHH, the Turkish Humanitarian Relief Foundation perhaps best known for funding part of the Turkish flotilla that in May 2010 tried to forcibly break Israel’s naval blockade of the Gaza Strip, the newspaper reported.
Israeli-Turkish relations have soured in recent years and worsened after the flotilla incident, in which eight Turks and a Turkish-American aboard one of the boats were killed in a scuffle with Israeli soldiers.
When Israel refused Turkish requests for an apology, Turkey expelled the Israeli ambassador and downgraded political and military ties with Israel.