IDF in Kenya

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Despite the fact that the IDF is not being underemployed in protecting the lives of Israel’s citizens (yours truly included), Israel has not hesitated to dispatch IDF personnel to Kenya, in an effort to rescue construction workers trapped inside a collapsed building.
Shortly after the Home Front Command’s rescue team arrived at the site of the collapsed building in Nairobi, Kenya on Tuesday morning, soldiers pulled two survivors out of the rubble and were in contact with two others, Brig.-Gen. Avraham Ben-David told The Jerusalem Post.
 
Two other survivors were pulled out by US and British rescue teams working at the site. The death toll on Tuesday rose to 14, despite the efforts of the international rescue teams who worked alongside the locals. Kenyan Army Maj. Gen. Paul Opiyo said rescuers had found four additional survivors still trapped in two locations, and had located a third site where survivors may be huddled.
 
“The first 72 hours are the most critical and all our efforts will focus on pulling out as many survivors as we can,” said Ben-David. Unwilling to estimate the chances of survival of those still trapped inside, Ben-David said that over 100 survivors have been pulled out of the ruins of the five story building, and locals estimate that approximately 200 workers were inside when it collapsed, he said.
 
According to local reports, the construction workers had just finished lunch Monday and many were taking a nap when the building began to sway, then quickly collapsed.
 
Kenya’s President Mwai Kibaki told reporters at the site that everyone was praying that more survivors would be extracted from the rubble in the coming days. “We need courage and to work hard,” he said adding that he planned to purchase the necessary rescue equipment in order to be prepared for any such disasters in the future.
 
While this is not the first disaster the rescue unit has dealt with, there is a difference in the way the building collapsed compared with those destroyed in earthquakes or bomb blasts, said Ben-David. “Here the disaster was the result of a badly constructed, partially built building. All the large concrete slabs fell on top of each other pinning the workers between them. Our task will be to sift through each layer and search for survivors,” he said.
 
Unlike past disasters such as the suicide bomb attack at Egypt’s Taba Hotel in October 2004, and the Tsunami in the far east over a year ago, the site in Nairobi is a contained one and if all goes according to plan it will probably take four or five days to complete the mission, he said. “There have been instances where trapped people have survived up to three or four days and we have heard of instances where people held out a week or longer,” he said. On Tuesday morning, the IDF rescue teams were the only international representatives at the site aside from locals he said. “We are the only ones aside from many locals who lack the necessary equipment,” he said.
 
The Israeli team, said Ben-David, received a warm welcome. “To be involved in offering humanitarian assistance anywhere in the world gives us great satisfaction. Our goal is to save lives, regardless of religion, gender, or origin. That is the beauty of our work.”
 
The team led by Home Front Commander Maj.Gen. Gershon Yitzhak left Israel for Kenya early Tuesday morning after Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni agreed to Kenya’s Vice President Moody Awori’s request for assistance.
 
The delegation, which is comprised of 100 soldiers and officers assigned to rescue and medical units, teams flew in two planes to Kenya taking with them state of the art technological rescue equipment to the disaster area.
 
A statement released by the Foreign Ministry noted the longstanding ties of friendship that exist between Israel and Kenya. “Even during the period in which the two states did not have full diplomatic relations, Israel was allowed to maintain a presence in Kenya, in the form of an office of interests. Kenya also played an important role in the success of Operation Entebbe,” the statement said.
Just another example of Israeli humanitarian assistance – frequently underreported, and sometimes rejected.

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An Aussie immigrant to Israel, David Lange is founder and managing editor of Israellycool. He is a happy family man, and a lover of steak, Australian sports and single malt whisky.