United Hatzalah CEO Eli Pollack and Vice President of Operations Dov Maisel on Sunday instructed the head of United Hatzalah’s rescue mission Major (res.) Yossi Cohen to end the operation and return to Israel as soon as possible, due to a significant security threat, United Hatzalah said in a statement Sunday morning.
The Israeli rescue and relief mission in Turkey has been scrapped following a joint situational assessment with the heads of the IDF Home Front Command and Search and Rescue Units on Saturday night.
The team quickly packed up their equipment and gear and made hasty arrangements to fly back to Israel at the earliest opportunity. Philanthropist Dr. Miriam Adelson donated her private jet to fly the team back to Israel on Sunday, responding to the lack of available planes.
VP Maisel said: “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 to mitigate the threat for the sake of our lifesaving mission. Unfortunately, we have just received intelligence of a concrete and immediate threat to the Israeli delegation and we must put the security of our personnel first.”
Maisel added: “We are extremely proud of what our team has accomplished in just a few days, assisting in the rescue of 15 individuals in cooperation with the IDF Home Front Command, Israel’s Search and Rescue units, local rescue forces, and the Turkish Red Cross.”
“I want to thank Dr. Adelson for assisting us in bringing our people back quickly and safely,” he added.
The IDF has also announced their rescue team is also wrapping up their operations in Turkey and will be returning to Israel in the coming days. Some IDF doctors will remain in Turkey to help treat the wounded.
Besides Israel, German rescue workers and the Austrian army also suspended operations due to the worsening security situation.
The Austrians report clashes between groups, according to an AFP report, and are now sheltering in place in the southern Hatay province as they await further instructions.
The Germans also report clashes between factions, with shots fired, and they too are remaining on base until Turkey security forces believe it is safe.