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Israel Airlifts Relief Supplies to Kurdish Refugees Fleeing Iraq

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An Israeli air force cargo plane on Tuesday morning delivered six tons of emergency supplies for Kurdish refugees to Turkey, to be distributed by the Turkish Red Crescent, that country’s equivalent of the Red Cross.

Aboard the Hercules transport plane on its way back to Israel was Israeli peace activist Abie Nathan, who spearheaded the Israeli drive to aid the Kurds.

The shipment included blankets, tents, clothing and medical supplies, mainly antibiotics, for the tens of thousands of refugees stranded without shelter or hygienic conditions in the mountainous border area between Turkey and Iraq.

The plight of the Kurdish refugees has, as was anticipated, worsened dramatically in the last few days, with hundreds dying daily of exposure, dehydration and dysentery in their crowded and unsanitary conditions.

The shipment was enabled by donations to Magen David Adorn, Israel’s Red Cross equivalent, and the Association of Israelis of Kurdish Origin.

An MDA representative who accompanied the cargo said it was unloaded in 20 minutes at a Turkish military airfield. But the Turkish Red Crescent officials who received the supplies said it would take at least 36 hours to truck them to the border region because of bad roads.

Nathan has been sharply critical of what he called the haphazard manner in which aid is being air-dropped to the refugees by the United States and other countries. Numbers of Kurds have died from the impact of falling pallets of the goods.

Foodstuffs and other items have broken apart as they hit the ground, buffeted by the high winds of helicopter propellers. The helicopters are unable to land in the rocky terrain, particularly because of the high density of people encamped in the steep mountains.

Nathan, who went to Turkey last week to determine the best method to deliver humanitarian aid to those who need it most, said in a telephone interview prior to returning to Israel that he insisted that any supplies he donated would have to be landed by helicopter at Red Crescent distribution points near refugee encampments.

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