Iran Turns Down Offers of Earthquake Aid, Including From Its Arch-Foe Israel

By Patrick Goodenough | November 16, 2017 | 4:21am EST
A photo by Iran's Fars news agency shows damage to buildings from Sunday's earthquake in the country's Kermanshah province. (Photo: Fars)

( – Survivors of an earthquake near Iran’s border with Iraq – the deadliest in the world so far this year – have been calling for more help than they’re getting, but their government says it doesn’t need help from abroad.

A day after Sunday’s 7.3 magnitude earthquake killed more than 500 people in Iran and injured more than 8,000 in Iran and Iraq, Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif tweeted, “We are grateful for global expressions of sympathy and offers of assistance. For now, we can manage with our own resources.”

But days later, victims are still asking for help, sleeping in the rubble of tens of thousands of destroyed homes and, according to an AP report, “saying authorities haven’t delivered enough tents ahead of the fast-approaching winter.”

On Tuesday, Iranian officials called off searches in the rubble of destroyed homes, saying there was little chance of finding anyone left alive.

About half of the fatalities are reported to have occurred in the minority Kurdish town of Sarpol-e-Zahab in Kermanshah province, about ten miles from the Iraq border.

In a tweet directed at Zarif, U.K.-based Kurdish affairs scholar Dana Nawzar Jaf, said Thursday, “you told the world not to send aid because you had enough – for now – and yet it is the poor Kurdish villagers who do all the help. Where is your government in all of this and why do you refuse to accept international aid?”

In a separate tweet, he said, “Amid Iranian government’s reluctance to help, many Iranian Kurdish citizens have mobilized to provide food and shelter to the earthquake victims.”

One unlikely offer of aid came Wednesday from Israel, a country that has world-leading disaster rescue and emergency field hospital capabilities, but is loathed by the regime in Tehran.

Israeli media outlets cited an official in Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s office as saying the offer of medical assistance, made through the Red Cross, had been turned down.

In a statement, Netanyahu said he had been moved to offer help by images of “mothers and fathers searching for their children, children buried under the rubble from this horrible earthquake.”

He said Israel has never had a quarrel with the Iranian people.

“Our only quarrel is with the cruel Iranian regime, a regime that holds its people hostage, and regime which threatens our people with annihilation,” he said.

Netanyahu recalled past Israeli assistance to earthquake victims in countries like Haiti, Mexico and the Philippines.

“We will continue to offer sympathy and support to victims, no matter where they’re from, even if their regime and their governments don’t care for them as much as they care to hate us.”

Israel has earned a reputation over decades of quickly offering and dispatching world-class search and rescue teams to the scenes of disasters.

Equipped with specialized dogs and devices designed to detect seismic and acoustic emissions by people under debris, the Israelis played a key role in search and rescue and recovery efforts after earthquakes in Turkey – recovering 12 survivors and 140 bodies after a quake in 1999 – as well as in Greece, Armenia, Haiti and Mexico.

The teams were also deployed in Kenya after al-Qaeda bombed the U.S. Embassy in 1998.

But when a massive earthquake struck south-eastern Iran in 2003, killing more than 25,000 people, the regime turned down an Israeli offer of help. Even though at the time it accepted aid from other Western countries, including even the United States, Tehran’s interior ministry announced it would accept aid from every country except Israel.

“The Islamic Republic of Iran accepts all kinds of humanitarian aid from all countries and international organizations with the exception of the Zionist regime,” a ministry spokesman said at the time.

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