News Digest — 2/8/23

Earthquakes: A Familiar, Looming Threat To The Middle East

The earthquake that devastated Turkey and Syria registered 7.8 on the Richter scale, leaving thousands dead in its wake.

This destructive quake was no isolated event, no freak occurrence, but rather a testament to a Middle East cut through with fault lines under tensions and ready to unleash catastrophic fury, including in Israel.

“In Israel, this active rift, which is called the Great Rift Valley, is a major concern,” said Ittai Kurzon, a seismologist and project manager at the Geological Survey of Israel.

“It’s a tear in the earth’s crust that runs the entirety of the border with Jordan, starting in Eilat and continuing all the way through the Sea of Galilee into Lebanon,” he told i24NEWS.

The danger is region-wide, though.  The Middle East is where three continents meet, and as such, these geological collision zones have historically produced earthquakes that have leveled cities as far back as antiquity.  For example, the ruined city of Scythopolis was brought down by the Galilee earthquake in 749 BCE.

“A massive earthquake, eight points on the Richter scale, leveled Scythopolis, [known as] Beit She’an, and it began to decline,” said tour guide Uri Goldflam.  “It was for a thousand years a regional power, but after that massive quake, the decline began.”

The region’s earthquakes even made it into biblical accounts – the Books of Samuel, Zechariah, and Amos all reference historical quakes.  In 1033, the Jordan Rift Valley quake flattened Jericho, Nablus and Ramleh, leaving 70,000 dead.

Such disasters have shattered the region in modernity as well.  In Iran, a massive quake struck the Kerman Province in 2003, south of Tehran.  31,000 people perished.  Two years later in Pakistan, north of Islamabad, 73,000 died from an earthquake.

In Israel, small quakes are a near constant in the north – a possible warning of things to come.

“The area Is active enough to produce, every hundred years or so, an earthquake magnitude six or higher,” warned Kurzon, “which would cause destruction in a radius of 125 miles from the epicenter.”

Meaning the threat of what happened in Turkey and Syria haunts the entire Middle East region.    



IDF To Set Up Field Hospital In Turkey To Treat Injured In Earthquake

An Israel Defense Forces Delegation of medical and logistics corps troops departed for Turkey early Wednesday morning (8th) to establish a field hospital to treat those injured in the devastating earthquake and smaller aftershocks that have killed thousands of people, the military said.

Preparations were underway on Tuesday (7th), and the IDF said the delegation would comprise some 230 people, including search and rescue experts, military medics, and Health Ministry doctors, nurses and paramedics.

“The delegation will establish a field hospital and focus on providing medical treatment using advanced equipment brought in from Israel,” the IDF said in a statement.

Additionally, the IDF said the delegation would assist Home Front Command search and rescue teams, which began operating in southeastern Turkey on Tuesday evening (7th).

The IDF dispatched an initial delegation on Monday evening (6th), followed by a larger 150-person one early Tuesday morning (7th).

The search and rescue delegation that departed early Tuesday (7th) was reportedly delayed by several hours due to harsh winter weather conditions and traffic, before it began operations.

The field hospital delegation is to be led by the commander of the Home Front Command Search and Rescue Brigade, Col. Elad Edri.  The preparations were led by the deputy chief of the Medical Corps, Col. Dr. Tomer Koller, who will also be on the ground to manage the hospital.

In a video statement, the chief of the IDF Medical Corps, Brig.Gen. Dr. Elon Glassberg, addressed the decision to send a field hospital “amid the great disaster in Turkey.”

“This is a difficult hour for the Turkish nation, and we are proud that we can come and assist,” Glassberg said.

“The ability to send a hospital to another country is a unique ability.  Few countries are able to do such a thing and we are proud to be the ones to come and help.  We have done so in the past, we will do it this time, and we will do it like always, with professionalism, from a sense of responsibility, and with a sense of pride…we will bring pride to the State of Israel,” he added.

The IDF Home Front Command is regularly dispatched around the world to assist in natural disasters, including earthquakes, wildfires, flooding and building collapses.

The Israeli military field hospital is also regularly dispatched to disaster zones to provide humanitarian relief.

Several delegations of Israeli medics from emergency organizations have also headed to Turkey to assist local authorities in treating victims of the earthquake.

The Foreign Ministry will also be sending additional flights to Turkey containing humanitarian items and medicine.

The earthquake death toll was at least 9,500 people in both Turkey and Syria as of Wednesday morning (8th).

Hundreds are still believed trapped under rubble, and the toll is expected to rise as rescue workers search mounds of wreckage in cities and towns across the quake area.



Earthquake: President And Wife Of Jewish Community Of Antakia Feared Among The Dead

The home of the president of the Jewish community of Antakia, Turkey, was one of the many thousands of buildings left in rubble following Monday’s (6th) devastating earthquakes, and it is feared that the president and his wife are no longer among the living.

Irit Lilian, the Israeli ambassador to Turkey, reported on Tuesday morning (7th) that no signs of life had been received from the couple.

“Unfortunately, the president of the Jewish community of Antakia and his wife have probably lost their lives,” she said.  “Their home is in ruins.  As for Israelis caught up in the disaster, we’re still in the process of checking up on everyone.  The disaster zone isn’t one that many Israelis visit.  As far as we know at this point in time, there are no distress calls going out for any Israeli citizens who are missing.”  

Speaking to Channel 12 news, Lilian added that, “Very few Jews were in the area, which is a relatively remote one. The president of the Jewish community of Istanbul traveled out there yesterday and later told me that as far as anyone knows, all the Jews there are accounted for, except for the couple in Antakia.”

Ambassador Lilian said that “Delegations from all over the world are arriving here.  This is something quite exceptional in Turkey.  Following previous natural disasters, Turkey made very little appeals to the international community, but this time they made their first appeal right after the first quake hit.  Teams from Greece have already arrived, and from Azerbaijan and several European countries.  A delegation from the US came Tuesday evening (7th).  There has been an amazing international response.”



Israel’s Sheba Children’s Hospital Among Most Advanced In The World

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Prof. Yitshak Kreiss, chief executive of Israel’s Sheba Medical Center in central Israel, inaugurated the futuristic Edmond and Lily Safra Children’s Hospital this week.

The new medical center will be among the most technologically advanced children’s hospitals in the world.  Along with the new medical technology, the hospital will highlight unique early genetic tests and the detection and treatment of rare diseases.

Tens of thousands of Israeli children are treated at Sheba’s already existing children’s hospital, as well as hundreds of seriously ill children from the West Bank and Gaza each year, many of whom suffer from rare genetic diseases.

“Building the new children’s hospital is a huge accomplishment and a great mitzvah (good deed) to help these young people,” said Netanyahu at the inauguration ceremony in central Israel.  “I’m sure you will do this with a great sense of pride and success.  I have great faith in you to heal the children of Israel,” he told Kreiss.

In response, Kreiss touted the benefits that will materialize from the new center.

“The futuristic new Safra Children’s Hospital will feature many new and unique divisions like you’ve never seen before, including a burn unit, an eating disorder division and special treatments for young people with genetic diseases,” he said.

“Most importantly, we are a hospital of peace and a beacon of hope not only for the children of Israel, but also for the children of the region. Including young people from the West Bank, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Morocco, with which we are already dealing.  This is the DNA of Sheba.”

According to Newsweek rankings, Sheba Medical Center is among the top 10 hospitals in the world.



Palestinian Authority Building Illegal City South Of Jerusalem, Gush Etzion Leader Warns

The Palestinian Authority is paving an unauthorized road through a nature reserve south of Jerusalem in violation of the Oslo Accords, in a move local Jewish leaders warn is a preliminary step towards the establishment of an illegal city to cut off a large portion of Judea from the rest of Israel.

The road is currently under construction in the Judean desert, cutting through the Hascamit Nature Reserve north of Herodian.

A sign boasts of the foreign funding used to pave the road.

“The new paved road was built in an area of the Hascamit Nature Reserve, which under the Oslo Accords was supposed to remain untouched, without roads or homes.  But those promises, versus the reality on the ground, paint a different picture.  There are both illegal roads and homes in the area.  That road must be destroyed,” the Gush Etzion Regional Council said in a statement Tuesday (7th).

Gush Etzion Regional Council chief Shlomo Ne’eman, in whose district the illegal road is being paved, warned that the Palestinian Authority’s blatant violation of the Oslo Accords highlights the lack of Israeli control over the area. 

Ne’eman, who visited the area where the road is being built Tuesday (7th), added that the PA appears to be laying the groundwork for an entire city – built illegally – which would cut off Gush Etzion from the Judean Desert.

“This is what lawlessness looks like,” Ne’eman said.  “Welcome to the Oslo Accords!  Welcome to the Hascamit Nature Reserve.  The purpose of a nature reserve is to do just that – preserve nature.  According to the agreements, nothing is to be built here: it is to remain untouched barren desert.”

“But what is the reality we are seeing here?” he continued.  “We see the establishment of an Arab town in every way shape or form, with infrastructure, water sources, roads, pouring of concrete, trucks, everything.  This all must stop.”

“We expect the new government, from Defense Minister Gallant to the Minister within the Defense Ministry [Smotrich] to get involved and establish order in our country,” he demanded.