Israeli President offers condolences to Turkish President Abdullah Gul following an earthquake in southeastern Turkey that may have claimed 500 to 1,000 lives.
President Shimon Peres called Turkish President Abdullah Gul and offered his condolences following the 7.3 magnitude quake that struck southeastern Turkey earlier Sunday, that may have claimed the lives of up to 1,000 people.
"Speaking as a human being, a Jew and an Israeli who remembers and is aware of the depth of the historic relations between our two countries, I extend condolences on behalf of the entire (Israeli) people," Peres said.
Peres added that "in this difficult hour, the State of Israel is ready to offer any assistance possible, anywhere in Turkey and at any time."
The Turkish President thanked Peres and said the authorities are still trying to assess the damage done by the quake. He expressed his hopes that Turkish aid teams will not require outside assistance in rescue efforts.
Earlier on Sunday, Defense Minister Ehud Barak instructed the head of the Defense Ministry's diplomatic-security bureau, Amos Gilad, to contact Turkish officials and offer them "any aid that they may need."
Meanwhile, Foreign Ministry officials have also initiated contact with Ankara in order to estimate the extent of aid required, if at all.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor indicated that, following orders by Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, he had contacted Turkish authorities, saying "Israel's embassy in Ankara had already issued the offer to Turkish officials."
Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Benny Gantz instructed the IDF's Home Front Command to prepare for the possible launching of a special delegation to the Turkish disaster zone.
Turkey's Kandilli Observatory estimates that some 500 to 1,000 people were killed on Sunday, broadcaster CNN Turk reported.
There were bodies of more than 50 people in a hospital in Ercis, the town near the city of Van that was near the epicenter of the earthquake, Cihan news agency reported. State-run TRT television reported that 59 people were killed and 150 injured in the eastern town of Ercis, 25 others died in Van and a child died in the nearby province of Bitlis.
Major geological fault lines cross Turkey and small earthquakes are a near daily occurrence. Two large quakes in 1999 killed more than 20,000 people in northwest Turkey. Two people were killed and 79 injured in May when an earthquake shook Simav in northwest Turkey.
IDF prepares rescue mission to Turkey after earthquake
Netanyahu: “This is what neighbors do”; Ankra rejects all internationals calls for aid following powerful earthquake.
IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz on Sunday ordered the Home Front Command to prepare a standby mission to head out to Turkey, after a powerful earthquake rocked the southeastern part of the country.
Turkey has not made any international calls for assistance, an official in Ankara said, and has rejected the dozens of offers made from various countries.
The IDF, however, said it was preparing a mission just in case Ankara changed its mind.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said, “I have instructed all branches of the Israeli government to offer whatever help it can offer to the people of Turkey.”
Netanyahu said Israel had provided earthquake assistance to Turkey in the past, and Turkey had raced to help Israel during the Carmel Forest fire last winter.
“It is what neighbors should be doing with one another,” Netanyahu said.
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Still, Defense Minister Ehud Barak told Channel 2 Sunday night Turkey was not interested in Israel’s offer at this time.
He, too, made reference to the last time Israel offered relief and rescue assistance to Turkey 11 years ago, and hinted at the tensions that have since broken out between the two countries.
“We’re in a different reality now,” Barak said.
He stressed that Israel’s offer remains on the table.
“We have not forgotten that Turkey was the first to help us with the Carmel fire disaster,” Barak said.
On Sunday, President Shimon Peres spoke by telephone with his Turkish counterpart, Abdullah Gul, to offer Israeli aid after the earthquake struck southeastern Turkey.
“At this difficult time, Israel is willing to provide any aid required anywhere in Turkey, and at any time,” Peres told Gul, according to a statement released by his office.