United Hatzalah ends Turkish relief mission citing ‘concrete and immediate threat’

February 13, 2023 by Pesach Benson
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A delegation of around 40 workers from Israel’s United Hatzalah emergency response organization is returning to Israel immediately amid a “concrete and immediate threat” to the team on Sunday.

United Hatzalah’s humanitarian relief delegation leaving for Turkey on Feb. 7, 2023. Photo by United Hatzalah

The Hatzalah delegation was based in Kahramanmaraş, in southern Turkey.

“We knew that there was a certain level of risk in sending our team to this area of Turkey, which is close to the Syrian border, but we took the necessary steps in order to mitigate the threat for the sake of our lifesaving mission,” said Dovi Maisel, Hatzalah’s vice president of operations. “Unfortunately, we have just received intelligence of a concrete and immediate threat on the Israeli delegation and we have to put the security of our personnel first.”

Local discontent with the Turkish government’s handling of the disaster is said to be rising. Kahramanmaraş is also 200 km (124 miles) from an area of the Syrian border where Islamic State remains active. Following the earthquake, a number of Islamic State prisoners escaped from a Syrian prison in Rajo, not far from the Turkish border.

The official death toll from Turkey and Syria combined passed 29,000 and continues climbing.

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