Israeli Rescue Teams Take Off for Philippines

Israel rescue

Members of the F.I.R.S.T rescue team in Ben Gurion Airport before takeoff.

In response to Typhoon Haiyan, which plowed through Asia over the weekend, leaving in its wake massive destruction and scores of wounded and dead, two Israeli rescue groups reached the Philippines Monday. The preliminary teams have been tasked with assessing the situation on the ground and deciding what the necessities are in preparation for the coming of much larger rescue teams.

The first team, commissioned by Minister of Defense Moshe Ya’alon and IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz, is composed of members of the IDF’s search and rescue unit, the medical corps and representatives of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The second team is headed by F.I.R.S.T (Fast Israeli Rescue and Saving Teams), a voluntary civilian organization that specializes in search and rescue missions. The team is composed of members of Israel’s civilian rescue teams from around the country, commanded by retired Lt. Col. Tsafrir Shifman. The experienced organization can provide search and rescue support as well as medical services.

Chairman of F.I.R.S.T, retired Brig. Gen. Avi Bachar, said the teams are ready to ship out and provide support to those in need, as it has done over the past 20 years in 11 countries across the world.

Israeli rescue missions have responded to many recent natural disasters, including the earthquake in Japan in 2011, the Haiti disaster in 2010 and Hurricane Sandy in 2012.

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