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Israeli PM offers aid to Iran, Iraq through Red Cross for earthquake relief

Residents huddle by a fire in an open area following a 7.3-magnitude earthquake at Sarpol-e Zahab in Iran's Kermanshah province on November 13, 2017
POURIA PAKIZEH (ISNA/AFP)
The massive quake killed hundreds, left thousands homeless, and caused the countries to scramble for aid

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday said that he offered aid through the Red Cross for the victims of the deadly 7.3 magnitude earthquake that struck the Iraq-Iran border region on Sunday.

Netanyahu said that after viewing images of the quake's aftermath, he "directed that we offer the Red Cross medical assistance for the Iraqi and Iranian victims of this disaster."

Just an hour after his remarks concluded, an official in Netanyahu's office said that the offer was rejected by Iran.

The remark, made via satellite at an event for the Jewish Federation of North America, was unexpected as Israel does not have diplomatic relations with either country and previously stated on Monday that it would not be providing humanitarian assistance, despite being regarded as a world leader in disaster relief.

Netanyahu has also been outspoken about opposing Iran, claiming the Islamist nation to be a grave threat to the entire region.

However, on Monday Israel’s intelligence minister Yisrael Katz, who also holds the post of transportation minister, offered "condolences to the people of Iran and Iraq over the loss of human life caused by the earthquake."

The massive quake killed hundreds, left thousands homeless, and caused the countries to scramble for aid.

The worst affected areas were in Iran's western province of Kermanshah, where the coroner's office told state television that at least 328 people were dead and another 2,350 injured.

UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson sent his "deepest condolences" to the people of Iraq and Iran and pledged his country's readiness to assist the victims and the recovery effort.

Turkey, meanwhile, dispatched emergency personnel and aid to Iraq with Prime Minister Binali Yildirim expressing "deep sadness" and the devastation.

The Turkish Red Crescent's vice president told The Associated Press that 33 aid trucks were en route to Iraq's Sulaimaniyah carrying 3,000 tents and heaters, 10,000 beds and blankets as well as food.

Volunteers also rushed to help the displaced after thousands of homes were destroyed in the quake, which rocked a region extending across Iran's western province of Kermanshah and neighboring Iraqi Kurdistan.

In Iran, rescue efforts were hindered by landslides in the mountainous border region.

In 1990, a 7.4-magnitude quake near the Caspian sea in northern Iran killed 40,000 people and left 300,000 more injured and half a million homeless. Within seconds the quake reduced dozens of towns and nearly 2,000 villages to rubble.

Thirteen years later, a catastrophic quake struck the ancient southeast Iranian city of Bam, famed for its mud brick buildings, killing at least 31,000 people and flattening swathes of the city.

Following that quake, Israel reportedly considered offering aid but a spokesman for Tehran’s Interior Ministry said the Islamic Republic would not accept the offer.

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

Since then, Iran has experienced at least two major quake disasters, one in 2005 that killed more than 600 and another in 2012 that left some 300 dead.

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