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Israeli rescue team leaves Turkey over security fears

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An Israeli emergency relief organization said Sunday it had suspended its earthquake rescue operation in Turkey and returned home because of a “significant” security threat to its staff, Agence France-Presse reported.

The United Hatzalah group posted images on Twitter of its team assisting Turkish Red Crescent personnel rescue a person from the rubble near the quake’s epicenter in Kahramanmaras on Saturday.

But on Sunday, the group said it had taken an emergency flight back to Israel due to a “verified security threat.”

“We knew that there was a certain level of risk in sending our team to this area of Turkey, which is close to the Syrian border,” the group’s vice president of operations Dov Maisel said.

“Unfortunately, we have just received intelligence of a concrete and immediate threat on the Israeli delegation and we have to put the security of our personnel first.”

United Hatzalah sent more than two dozen medical personnel to help deal with the impact of Monday’s 7.8-magnitude tremor.

The quake has killed nearly 30,000 people in southeastern Turkey and more than 3,500 in Syria.

Turkish security officials have arrested dozens of people on suspicions of looting and other crimes.

The Israeli group’s announcement follows a decision by both the Austrian army and German rescue workers to suspend operations Saturday due to security fears.

The German group ISAR cited “reports of clashes between different factions” along the Syrian border and of shots being fired.

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