UPDATED: Netanyahu says Syria requests quake relief, Israel ready to send it

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JERUSALEM, Feb 6 (Reuters) – Israel said on Monday that it had received a Syrian request for assistance with earthquake relief for the Arab state and that it was prepared to oblige, in what would be rare cooperation between the enemy neighbours.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a speech he had ordered Israeli aid sent to Turkey, the epicentre of Monday’s earthquake, and that “since a request was also received to do this for many victims of the earthquake in Syria, I instructed to do this as well”.

Syrian officials have reported hundreds killed in the civil war-torn country, both in areas under Damascus’ control and in the opposition-held northwest.

Asked who had made the request regarding Syria cited by Netanyahu, an Israeli official told Reuters: “The Syrians”. Asked if this referred to opposition members or to President Bashar al-Assad’s government, the official said only: “Syria”.

A second Israeli official said the request had been relayed to the Netanyahu government “by a diplomatic source”.

There was no immediate Syrian response to the Israeli statements.

Israel and Syria have been in a state of war for decades, with periods of ceasefire. For a time, Israel helped Syrian rebels on the Golan Heights frontier, and in 2018 it worked with Jordan and the United States to evacuate Syrian “White Helmet” rescue workers and their families fleeing a government advance.

An earthquake hit the Syrian capital Damascus on Monday, state media reported.

It gave no further details.

Syria’s Baniyas oil refinery will suspend operations for 48 hours following a deadly earthquake in Turkey, state news agency SANA reported on Monday citing an oil ministry statement.

The 7.8-magnitude pre-dawn quake, whose epicentre was near the Turkish city of Gaziantep, wiped out entire sections of cities in Turkey and war-ravaged Syria.

At least 592 people were killed across the war-torn country, the Syrian government and rescue workers said.

The official news agency SANA, citing the health ministry, said at least 371 people were killed and 1,089 injured in government-controlled areas.

The White Helmets rescue group said at least 221 were killed and 419 injured in rebel-held areas, and cautioned “the toll may increase as many families are still trapped.”

epa10450730 Damage at the site of a collapsed building following an earthquake in Armanaz town, Idlib Governorate, Syria 06 February 2023. According to the US Geological Service, an earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of 7.8 struck southern Turkey close to the Syrian border, causing buildings to collapse and sending shockwaves over northwest Syria, Cyprus, and Lebanon. At least 221 people were killed and 419 injured in northwest Syria, with hundreds remaining trapped under the rubble, according to the White Helmets group, the Syria Civil Defence operating in the area. EPA-EFE/YAHYA NEMAH

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