Turkey Turns to Israel for Earthquake Assistance

JERUSALEM, October 26, 2011 (JTA) – Turkey has asked Israel for assistance in the wake of a devastating earthquake after previously rejecting all offers of help.

Turkish officials sent an official request for assistance late Tuesday, two days after both the country’s president and prime minister turned down offers from their Israeli counterparts.

The Turkish Foreign Ministry asked Israel to send temporary housing structures to house survivors. An Israeli convoy carrying portable structures is set to leave Wednesday for Turkey. More portable structures also will be sent in the coming days, according to reports.

Turkey continues to reject Israel’s offer to send search-and-rescue teams. Turkey also accepted assistance from other countries.

Sunday’s 7.3 magnitude temblor was centered in southeastern Turkey and felt in central Tel Aviv, Haaretz reported. At least 430 people are confirmed dead, with more than 1,000 injured.

On Tuesday, a 2-week-old baby was pulled alive from the rubble of a collapsed building; two adults also were rescued on Wednesday. A 5.4 magnitude aftershock also hit the area on Tuesday.

The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee has begun collecting funds for Turkish relief efforts and is working with local partners, including Turkey’s Jewish community, to ensure that the victims’ immediate needs are addressed. JDC’s past humanitarian interventions in Turkey have included providing aid and training after earthquakes in 2010 and 1999.

Diplomatic relations between Israel and Turkey have become virtually nonexistent since nine Turkish nationals, including a Turkish-American dual citizen, were killed in May 2010 during an Israeli raid on a Turkish-flagged aid flotilla attempting to break Israel’s naval blockade on the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip. Turkey has demanded an Israeli apology for the deaths and compensation to the victims’ families.

Israel has offered its “regret” for the deaths, and has said that its naval commandos fired in self-defense. Relations had been deteriorating since the 2008-09 Gaza war.

Turkey sent several firefighting airplanes to Israel last December to help battle the massive Carmel Forest fire.

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