Photo Credit: Erik Marmor / Flash 90
Members of United Hatzalah emergency medical services organization and Israeli rescue forces works at the site of a collapsed building after the deadly earthquake in Kahramanmaras, Turkey, on February 8, 2023.

Search and rescue personnel are racing the clock in Turkey and Syria to extract victims who are still alive despite freezing temperatures, injuries and trauma in the wake of Monday’s deadly earthquakes.


In Turkey, search and rescue teams from at least 30 countries around the world are working relentlessly to pull out as many living victims as possible before their bodies succumb to injuries and/or the frigid weather.

Around 50 countries from around the world have offered their assistance to Turkey.

Thursday morning marked the passing of a crucial “72 hour window” during which time most survivors are saved. Nevertheless, there are those who manage against all odds to survive beyond that point: after Japan’s devastating 9.0-magnitude earthquake in 2011, rescuers found and saved an 80-year-old woman and her 16-year-old grandson after being buried under rubble in their kitchen for nine days.

In any case, the Israelis aren’t giving up and neither is anyone else, for now.

Hundreds of Israelis Working to Save Victims
Operation “Olive Branches” – Israel’s rescue and medical aid response to the disaster – is being led by IDF Colonel (res.) Golan Vach, who said prior to boarding the plane for the mission that it was “an honor to help our friends in Turkey.”

Vach told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday in a phone conversation that the Israeli team is not willing to consider abandoning its rescue effort until at least eight days after the earthquake. At that time, the team will decide whether their efforts will move over to “recovery” rather than “rescue,” he said.

Israeli army and rescue forces seen near the city of Kahramanmaras, Turkey, to assist in rescue efforts after the earthquake. February 8, 2023.

Vach is leading a rescue delegation of 150 Israeli soldiers.

The team is joined by delegations from Israel’s United Hatzalah and Magen David Adom emergency medical response agencies, as well as a team from the Israeli IsraAID humanitarian aid and disaster response organization, and the ZAKA humanitarian aid organization.

IDF Medical Corps Opens Field Hospital
The IDF also sent a special 230-member medical team to Adana on Wednesday to set up a field hospital where those injured from the quakes can receive medical care.

The medical team includes orthopedic doctors, surgeons, anesthesiologists, intensive care specialists, emergency medicine doctors, pediatricians and trauma specialists.

The field hospital includes operating rooms, trauma units, X-ray machines and laboratories.

Elbit Systems Doing Its Part to Help
Israel’s Elbit Systems is helping the United Hatzalah rescue forces who have gone to the disaster zone in Turkey with its SYNCH system, which uses advanced communication and command and control technologies.

The system was developed by Elbit Systems as part of the Digital Land Army Project and then was adapted to civilian applications.

The app manages the collaborations between all medical personnel in the disaster zone together with United Hatzalah’s command center in Jerusalem on a map. The teams at the disaster zone can transmit voice messages, photos and live video from the field as well as send updates to the command and control centers.

It works on any cellular network and allows the teams to be quickly deployed in any environment that has network coverage, while maintaining contact with parties both in the field and in Israel.

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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.