By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent Worthy News
ISTANBUL/JERUSALEM (Worthy News) – As Turkey’s president defended his government’s perceived slow response to massive earthquakes, Israel was rushing to provide aid to Turkey and neighboring Syria.
Setting aside the often bilateral tensions, Israel Defense Forces dispatched a significant search-and-rescue group to earthquake-stricken southeastern Turkey.
And news emerged Wednesday that Israel was sending tents, medication, and blankets to Turkey’s wartorn neighbor Syria which was also hit by Monday’s 7.8 and 7.5 magnitude quakes.
The request for aid from Syria was reportedly made via Russian mediators. Russia has a significant military presence in Syria, a close ally.
The European Union on Wednesday pledged 3.5 million euros (nearly $3.8 million) in immediate aid to Syria after a government request for assistance. Still, it cautioned that the relief must be provided to both government- and rebel-controlled areas.
Syria’s civil defense said at least nearly 3,000 people had been killed in north-west Syria and almost as many injured.
However, an adviser to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said sanctions stopped Syria from receiving the necessary aid.
LACK OF BULLDOZERS
“We don’t have enough bulldozers, we do not have enough cranes, we do not have enough oil due to European and American sanctions,” Bouthaina Shabban added.
Earlier, Turkey’s president defended his government’s perceived slow response to Monday’s massive earthquakes, as the death toll passed 15,000 across Turkey and Syria, with rescue workers still searching for the living.
Making his first visit to Turkey’s worst-affected region since the 7.8- and at least 7.5 magnitude quakes hit within hours of each other, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan admitted early problems with providing aid.
“It is not possible to be prepared for such a disaster,” Erdoğan said. “We will not leave any of our citizens uncared for.”
He also hit back at critics, saying “dishonorable people” spread “lies and slander” about the government’s actions.
Erdoğan visited hard-hit Hatay province, where more than 3,300 people died, and entire neighborhoods were destroyed. Residents there have criticized the government’s efforts, saying rescuers were slow to arrive.
Additionally, questions have been raised by whom permits were granted for poorly built homes and apartment blocks in a quake-prone region, with reports of rampant corruption.
Much of southeastern Turkey turned into a wasteland after apartment blocks collapsed as houses of cards following the worst quakes in a century.
Among the many dead and injured were also foreigners from several nations. The earthquake was also believed to have impacted the tiny but ancient Christian community in the area.
At least three U.S. citizens were among those foreigners killed in southeastern Turkey, confirmed the U.S. State Department Wednesday.
“We are working closely with local authorities and other partner organizations to assist any U.S. citizens in the affected areas,” a State Department spokesperson said. “Due to privacy considerations, we have no additional details at this time.”
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