Some Israeli Rescuers Leaving Earthquake Hit Turkey Amid Violence; Christians In Area
By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent Worthy News
JERUSALEM/ISTANBUL (Worthy News) – Several Israeli rescue workers have left earthquake-hit Turkey after reported threats from Islamic militants and violence of frustrated local survivors, a Christian group supporting the Israeli rescuers acknowledged to Worthy News.
The Israel-based International Christian Embassy Jerusalem (ICEJ) said, “Israeli teams in Turkey have now called an end to the search-and-rescue phase of their earthquake response.”
As violence spread, the ICEJ said it was asked by ‘The Jewish Agency for Israel’ to “assist the local Jewish community and Israeli citizens in the impacted regions primarily by bringing them home on rescue flights to Israel.”
It was not immediately clear how the withdrawal of several Israeli rescue teams would impact the rescue operation.
The ICEJ said rescuers withdrew partly because they assessed that due to the “freezing temperatures and the passage of nearly a week since the initial earthquake, it was unlikely” to “find more people trapped alive.”
However, ICEJ acknowledged that the “decision also was taken in light of credible threats to the safety of the Israeli personnel operating in the affected regions. While some media reports have linked these threats to [Islamic State, also referred to as] ISIS or other regional militias, there also was a real danger of violence to the Israeli teams from local villagers.”
The ICEJ noted that residents have been “taking out their mounting anger and frustrations with their own government’s poor response to this national disaster.”
Yet ICEJ still appealed for donations from Christians for the Israeli medical emergency group United Hatzalah, which left for Israel but still prepares relief goods. “It has a well-earned reputation as Israel’s fastest paramedics on the scene of accidents and terror attacks.”
It explained that they provide “sorely needed warm clothing, along with first-aid kits, oxygen tanks, defibrillators, and other emergency medical equipment” for distribution through different channels.
The ICEJ supports an Israeli army field hospital “which has remained in Turkey and will continue to treat hundreds of people injured in the earthquakes.”
The announcement came as the official death toll of southern Turkey and northern Syria’s worst earthquakes in more than a century rose to more than 41,000.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said most victims, more than 35,000, died in Turkey, where several officials linked to poor building projects in the corruption-prone area were detained.
Syrian officials have said at least 5,800 have died there. “Sadly, the death toll in Turkey and Syria is still rising, and the suffering and loss in the impacted areas is immense,” ICEJ told Worthy News. “Thus, we want to continue to support the aid and relief efforts of [the few] Israeli organizations [still remaining or on distance organizing relief] in response to this ongoing tragedy.”
Leaders of other Christian aid groups told Worthy News they are supporting relief efforts despite the mounting dangers of violence. “This region is where the Church started,” said
David Curry, the chief executive officer and president of Global Christian Relief.
“Over the years, the believers in this area have walked through so much: civil war, persecution from the Islamic State group, and economic turmoil. And now this,” Curry added about the relief efforts in both Turkey and Syria.
“Today, we have a unique opportunity to come alongside devastated communities in this region. And help the churches there be salt and light in the worst natural disaster of this century. Our partners are on the ground distributing relief over the next 4-6 weeks,” he confirmed.
Barnabas Aid, another Christian group working in the region through a local partner, said it was encouraged by what it views as God’s miracles amid death and destruction.
“We praise God for His enabling and thank our supporters who responded so quickly and generously to help Christian victims of the devastating earthquakes,” the group said.
“Just three days later, the first food aid from Barnabas arrived in Aleppo, northern Syria. The rice, lentils, beans, chickpeas, bulgar, and noodles were distributed immediately.”
However, it admitted that more has to be done. In a text message shared with Worthy News, a pastor in the area noted that “Everything is gone, the church collapsed, my house is gone, we don’t have anything. People are cold and hungry and outside. There is crying and screaming everywhere. Many are under the collapsed buildings. The help is not here yet.”
The text message came from a pastor in Antakya, “the modern name for Antioch” [in southern Turkey], “where followers of the Lord Jesus were first called Christians [according to Bible verse] Acts 11:26. He was writing to some of Barnabas Aid’s project partners on the day of the earthquakes,” Barnabas Aid said. His name wasn’t revealed amid apparent security concerns.
“Pray with us,” said Prasad Philips, deputy international director of Barnabas Aid. He added that the next consignment of aid will be on its way very soon, “bringing both food and blankets, God willing.”
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