Humanitarian aid for those affected by last week’s devastating earthquake in Iran and Iraq offered by the state of Israel were rejected, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said.
Addressing an event for diaspora Jewish leaders in North America on Tuesday, Mr Netanyahu said that he had personally decided to offer help after being shaken by news of the quake, which killed more than 530 people and left 70,000 homeless.
“I just saw the pictures of the destruction in Iran and Iraq from this week’s earthquake. And I saw these heartbreaking images of men and women and children buried under the rubble. So I am proud to announce tonight that a few hours ago I directed that we offer the Red Cross medical assistance for the Iraqi and Iranian victims of this disaster,” Mr Netanyahu told the event in Los Angeles via a video link, The Times of Israel reported.
“I’ve said many times that we have no quarrel with the people of Iran,” the prime minister added.
“Our quarrel is only with the tyrannical regime that holds them hostage and threatens our destruction. But our humanity is greater than their hatred. Israel continues to be a light unto the nations and this is what I am proud of. And all of you can be proud of Israel’s morals, and Israel’s might.”
Mr Netanyahu said the offer was made via the International Committee of the Red Cross. A spokesperson from his office said later on Tuesday that the assistance had been “immediately rejected”.
“This shows the true face of the Iranian regime,” the official said.
Several Home Front Command officials told Israeli media they were not previously aware of any proposed aid packages.
The Red Cross has been contacted for comment.
In Sarpol-e Zahab, the Kurdish majority town in western Iran which borne the brunt of the damage, rescue workers continued to look for survivors amid the rubble for the third day in a row, but amid the cold November temperatures, hope is fading.
Relief workers said there is still an immediate need for blankets, children’s clothes, medicine and large cans to store drinking water.
Sunday’s magnitude 7.3 quake was centred 31 kilometres (19 miles) outside the eastern Iraqi city of Halabja, the US Geological Survey said.
It struck at a relatively shallow depth of 23.2 kilometres (14.4 miles), which usually leads to broader surface-level damage, and tremors recorded as far west as the Israeli coast of the Mediterranean and as far south as Baghdad.
Across the border in Iraq, the earthquake killed at least seven people and injured 535 others, all in the country’s northern, semi-autonomous Kurdish region, according to its Interior Ministry.
Iran, which sits on several geological fault lines, is prone to earthquakes. A magnitude 6.6 quake in 2003 killed 26,000 in the city of Bam.
Israeli help offered then was rejected, leading to the country not to offer assistance following two quakes in 2009 which killed 300 people.