A 150-member Israeli aid delegation canceled its mission to Sri Lanka on Tuesday, after the country - one of the hardest hit in the Asian tsunami disaster - refused to accept the Israeli team, Israel Defense Forces officials said.
However, Israel is sending supplies at Sri Lanka's request, including 10,000 blankets contributed by the IDF, tents, nylon sheeting and water containers. The IDF Home Front Command is organizing aid preparations.
The decision to send the Israeli delegation to Sri Lanka came despite the lack of diplomatic ties between the two countries. Sri Lanka said on Tuesday the death toll from the tsunami had risen to about 15,000 people, including at least 200 foreign tourists. Sri Lankan military spokesman Daya Ratnayake said more than 1.5 million people had been displaced from their homes - around 7.5 percent of Sri Lanka's population.
About 26,000 people were confirmed dead Tuesday in the wake of the tsunami that slammed into coasts from India to Indonesia two days before, with some estimates nearly doubling that toll.
The aid delegation that had been set to depart for Sri Lanka on Tuesday included medical teams and representatives of the IDF and Defense Ministry, who were planning to provide humanitarian assistance and participate in search-and-rescue operations.
The delegation was planning to assemble a medical facility comprised of specialist doctors, and set up emergency, internal medicine and pediatric departments, as well as laboratory and X-ray facilities in the southern part of Sri Lanka.
The tsunami earthquake disaster death toll raises hourly with no immediate end in sight, so that it more than a little disheartening to read that an Israeli aid delegation made up of search and rescue specialists, doctors, nurses and other emergency aid workers have been refused by the government of Sri Lanka.
Sri Lanka had broken off diplomatic relations with Israel during the 70’s in sympathy for the PLO platform. Though in May 2000 there were reports that Sri Lanka would resume relations with Israel and the Sri Lanka government has sought Israeli weapons and military expertise with its on-going battle against the Tamil Tigers but that appears to be the extent of relations that the Sri Lankan government is willing to resume. There has been a great deal of internal resistance to resuming full and open relations with Israel from Muslim politicians/population in Sri Lanka.
I can think of only a small handful of countries that possess the practical and technical expertise level that Israel has obtained; and it is the height of infamy that the Sri Lankan government cannot get beyond the No Jews Allowed bigotry. But kudos for Israel for maintaining its humanity despite the ongoing prejudice exhibited by the Sri Lankan government.