(Adds Palestinian official's comment)
By Dan Williams
TEL AVIV May 15 Israel said on Tuesday it had
set up a mechanism to get aid to the Palestinians in the event
of a major earthquake.
A 5.5-magnitude quake rattled Israel and the occupied West
Bank on Friday, reminding residents of their vulnerability to
the Syria-African Rift, a northern extension of Africa's Rift
"The working assumption is that they (Palestinians) do not
have the means to deal with such a disaster on their own," said
Alon Rozen, director-general of Israel's Civil Defence Ministry.
Given Israel's control of the West Bank, it would, in the
event of a major quake, host a United Nations aid distribution
centre to receive relief from abroad for Israelis and
The last big quake in the region in 1927 killed hundreds of
people. Such events tend to recur every 80 or 90 years.
Rozen said Israel decided last year to devote new attention
to earthquake preparedness. "The aspect of international aid for
the Palestinians was something we had not dealt with. Last
September, we realised this was a shortfall."
A U.N. official confirmed there was coordination with
Israel, but the Palestinians said they had yet to be consulted.
"We asked the United Nations years ago to create safe
corridors for receiving foreign aid in case of catastrophes,"
Major-General Ahmed Rezek, head of the Palestinian civil
emergency services, said in the West Bank city of Ramallah.
A senior Israeli military officer said his forces were on
standby to provide relief to Jewish settlers in the West Bank
but not to the much bigger Palestinian population.
"Were they to request help, I'm sure we would be happy to
provide it," said the officer, speaking on condition of
The U.N. official, who asked not to be named, said a
Palestinian request for Israeli assistance in the West Bank
would be standard procedure under such circumstances.
More challenging would be the Gaza Strip, another
Palestinian territory whose Islamist Hamas administration is
hostile to the Jewish state.
Israel, which keeps the enclave under naval blockade while
allowing some commercial traffic across its land border, has
held preliminary internal discussions on how to deliver
emergency assistance, Rozen said.
Talks on founding an independent Palestinian state are
(Additional reporting by Ali Sawafta in Ramallah; Editing by
Tim Pearce and Janet Lawrence)