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Israel says it has agreed to provide aid to quake-hit Syria, which Damascus denies


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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he had given the go-ahead to send aid to quake-hit Syria, but an official in Damascus quickly denied that they had asked for the aid in the first place.

Netanyahu told lawmakers from his ultra-Orthodox Likud party that Israel “received a request from a diplomatic source to provide humanitarian aid to Syria and approved it,” adding that the aid would be sent soon.

But a Syrian official told reporters that Damascus had “ridiculed and denied the allegations” that it had asked Israel for help.

“How can Syria seek help from an entity that has been killing… Syrians for decades?” said the official.

The Syrian government does not recognize Israel, and the two countries have fought several wars since the establishment of Israel in 1948.

Netanyahu’s office declined to give more details about the source of the request for Syria’s help, as hundreds of people were killed in a 7.7-magnitude earthquake on Monday in neighboring Turkey.

The Israeli leader also confirmed that his government would send humanitarian aid to Turkey in the aftermath of the disaster.

Israel’s Foreign Ministry said a team of search and rescue specialists would leave for Turkey on Monday, and that another delegation with humanitarian supplies would follow on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, Moscow said on Monday that about 300 Russian military personnel are helping clear rubble in Syria.

Russia also promised to provide assistance to both countries. On Monday afternoon, the Kremlin announced that rescue workers from the Russian Civil Defense would be flown to Syria in the coming hours.

President Vladimir Putin has already spoken on the phone with the leader of the Syrian regime, Bashar al-Assad.

In Turkey, more than 1,500 people have been killed, according to the authorities.

Assistant Minister of Health Ahmad al-Damiryeh told the official Syrian News Agency (SANA) that 461 people had been killed in areas controlled by the Syrian government. He said more than 1,300 were injured.

In the opposition-held northwest, 390 people have been killed and more than 1,000 wounded, according to Raed al-Saleh, the head of the White Helmets, a team of about 3,000 volunteers that provide aid to opposition-held areas. He added that hundreds are still trapped under the rubble.

Turkey’s Disaster and Emergency Management Authority (AFAD) said there were at least 42 aftershocks.

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