Syria earthquake aid turns political after Israeli says it will help

Syria earthquake aid turns political after Israeli says it will help

Follow the latest on the earthquake in Turkey

Humanitarian aid following a devastating earthquake in Turkey and Syria became political on Monday as Syria’s government denied that it had requested Israeli assistance.

Earlier in the day, Israel said it received a call from Damascus for assistance with earthquake relief and that it was prepared to oblige, in what would be rare co-operation between the neighbouring countries.

Syria’s pro-government newspaper Al Watan quoted an official source as saying Damascus did not request Israel’s help following the aftermath of the quake that has shocked the region.

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said early on Monday that he had given the go-ahead to send aid to Syria.

Israel “received a request from a diplomatic source for humanitarian aid to Syria, and I approved it”, Mr Netanyahu told politicians from his hawkish Likud party, adding that the aid would be sent soon.

An official in Damascus denied the claims. “How can Syria ask for help from an entity that has killed … Syrians for decades?”

Since Israel’s creation in 1948, Syria’s government has not recognised the state and the two countries have fought several wars.

“If Netanyahu had received such a request, it was certainly from his allies and friends in ISIS and other terrorist groups,” said the Syrian official.

“The Israeli occupation is the cause of wars, and tensions in the region, and it should be the last person who has the right to talk about providing aid and assistance.”

More than 2,300 people have been killed by the 7.8-magnitude quake, in both Syria and Turkey.

The toll is expected to grow as aftershocks reverberate throughout the day.

Mr Netanyahu said aid would be sent to Turkey with a team of search and rescue specialists on Monday.

Another delegation equipped with humanitarian supplies would follow on Tuesday, he said.

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