Photo Credit: courtesy, United Hatzalah
Turkey earthquake disaster site in the city of Kahramanmaraş on February 8, 2023

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke by telephone on Wednesday afternoon with the commander of the IDF rescue mission to Turkey, Col. (Res.) Golan Vach.


“You are representing the mission with the most experience on the international level,” Netanyahu told Vach.

“You have much experience, which has proven itself. You are carrying out a humanitarian mission of the highest order and are bringing much honor to us and the State of Israel and are showing Israel’s true face to the world.

“Please convey my greetings to all members of the mission. Do what you can to save lives and be careful.”

In response, Vach told the prime minister that the Israeli search and rescue personnel are trying to make every effort to save lives.

“Up until now, we have saved four people and are working to save two more,” Vach noted.

“Timewise, this has been the most successful day that our missions have ever had, thanks to the fact that you succeeded in getting us here very quickly.”

Netanyahu also asked the commander when the mission might be forced to turn from search and rescue, to recovery.

“Generally, search and rescue efforts can last between five and six days after such a disaster, and under the current weather conditions,” Vach said in response. “However, we are Israelis and we are not even thinking about moving the mission from rescue to recovery until at least eight days has passed — because sometimes we get lucky.”

Multiple Israeli Teams Working Together
Working together with the IDF Home Front Command Search and Rescue teams are those from United Hatzalah, which also sent a large delegation to join the effort, as did IsraAID and Magen David Adom (MDA).

“We weren’t allowed to split up our team due to security concerns,” noted UH mission commander Yossi Cohen, a reservist in the Home Front Command’s Liaison Unit.

“We began assisting in the rescue currently underway in one particular building. This was a residential building that was 9 stories high when it was standing. The building pancaked when it collapsed during the earthquake.

“As other rescue units left that building after assessing that there were no casualties, we were alerted by locals that there were still people trapped underneath who were suspected to be alive,” Cohen said.

“United Hatzalah team members entered the ruins accompanied by an engineer from the search and rescue units. After approximately three hours of searching, they were able to make contact with those trapped by utilizing tapping techniques (recurring patterns of tapping on collapsed walls) to verify that there were indeed a number of people alive.”

Cohen said the team believes there are between four and ten people still alive and trapped there under the rubble.

“We are currently working to get them out,” he said. The team is expected to remain at the disaster zone in Kahramanmaras into the night in hopes of saving as many lives as possible, he added.

“We have found many people who are deceased and we are trying to get to those who are still alive.”

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Hana Levi Julian is a Middle East news analyst with a degree in Mass Communication and Journalism from Southern Connecticut State University. A past columnist with The Jewish Press and senior editor at Arutz 7, Ms. Julian has written for, and other media outlets, in addition to her years working in broadcast journalism.