Middle East roundup: Devastating earthquakes in Turkey and Syria

Here’s a roundup of Al Jazeera’s Middle East coverage this week.

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Earthquakes kill thousands across Syria and Turkey, five dead in an Israeli raid on Jericho, and a woman’s killing leads to outrage in Iraq. Here’s this week’s roundup, written by Abubakr Al-Shamahi and Danylo Hawaleshka.

There are few words to adequately describe the heartbreaking scenes that have unfolded in southwestern Turkey and northern Syria this week in the wake of two major earthquakes. A magnitude 7.8 quake struck early on Monday as young and old slept in their beds. Twelve hours later, a second quake of magnitude 7.6 hit the same region.

More than 17,000 people have died in places like Antakya, Gaziantep, Kahramanmaras, Diyarbakir, Idlib, Aleppo and Hama. The sheer size of the area affected, with cities hundreds of kilometres apart, reveals the power of what were two of the largest earthquakes by magnitude in the 21st century. Cities across the region are devastated, as before-and-after satellite pictures reveal.

INTERACTIVE How big were the Turkey-Syria earthquakes

Rescue workers initially found it difficult to access some areas because roads were damaged and airports were closed. The workers who do get through simply don’t have the numbers or the equipment to clear every collapsed building and are forced to make the horrible choice of what pile of rubble to prioritise as they listen for the faintest sound of life indicating that someone is still alive.

Even 70 hours on, people have been rescued, pulled out of the rubble, greeted by tears and cheers of joy from the crowds who have gathered. One, a newborn baby, was still attached by an umbilical cord to her dead mother. But with temperatures plummeting and time cruelly passing, the hope of finding more survivors is fading fast.

[READ: How to donate to Turkey and Syria earthquake disaster response]

In Turkey, there is growing anger from some people in the earthquake zone at what they see as a slow response by the government, but authorities say they’re doing the best they can given the extreme circumstances. Then there’s the question of whether the contractors who built the multistorey buildings that collapsed had actually followed building codes introduced after previous earthquakes.

In Syria, it has been a further calamity for a people who have faced the horrors of a war that’s lasted almost 12 years. The opposition-held northwest is no stranger to demolished buildings, a result of years of bombing by the Syrian government and Russia. But even for people in this often forgotten corner of Syria, the destruction is unprecedented. And the reality in both countries is that, buried under the rubble, there are almost certainly thousands more people who have died and have yet to be found.

[WATCH: Videos reveal extent of Turkey, Syria earthquake devastation]

A siege and military raid in Jericho

For a week, Palestinians in Jericho in the occupied West Bank said Israeli forces had besieged their city. Then on Monday, the Israelis conducted a large-scale military raid, targeting what they said were armed men who had carried out a failed attack on a military checkpoint last month. The raid eventually led to five Palestinians being shot dead. The Israelis say they were part of a Hamas cell. Reporting from Jericho days after the raid, Zena Al Tahhan witnessed people still shocked by what they said was the use of excessive force by the Israelis. The raid follows a similar one in the Palestinian city of Jenin that killed 10 people last month as well as an attack by a Palestinian on Israelis in an occupied East Jerusalem settlement that killed seven.

Iraqi father kills daughter

Tiba al-Ali, 22, was a popular YouTuber killed by her father, the Ministry of the Interior in Iraq announced on Friday. It’s been alleged that al-Ali’s father strangled her. Women in Iraq are often murdered by male relatives in family disputes. It’s been reported that a rights activist has said that al-Ali had “left her family … because she was sexually assaulted by her brother”. Amnesty International condemned the killing, saying the “Iraqi penal code still treats leniently so-called ‘honour crimes’ comprising violent acts such as assault and even murder”. A veteran Iraqi politician, Ala Talabani, responded to the murder on social media by writing that “women in our societies are hostage to backward customs due to the absence of legal deterrents and government measures – which currently are not commensurate with the size of domestic violence crimes.” Al-Ali’s death has led to calls on social media for protests in Baghdad on Sunday.

Now for something different

Imagine what it must have felt like for Sammy, a 41-year-old living in Montreal, Canada, to find out his brother in France, Laurent, was looking for him – a brother he had no idea he even had. It would turn out that both men, fraternal twins no less, had been born in 1981 in Lebanon in the middle of a civil war and had been separated at birth. It seems their birth mother had had an affair with a married man, who refused to take responsibility. And as Federica Marsi reports, it’s a scenario that has been all too common in Lebanon for many decades. As one NGO put it, “the ease with which children are separated from their biological families by illegal adoption, in and through Lebanon, is leading to problems that can no longer be ignored.” As for Sammy and Laurent, they would eventually meet in France. “I just [ran] over to him,” Sammy said, “and we gave each other a big hug.”


UK High Court rules against Bahrain in spyware case | Will Russia and Iran unite their banking systems? | Iran unveils underground airbase | Israeli forces kill Palestinian teen in Nablus raid | Iran’s supreme leader pardons ‘tens of thousands’ of prisoners | Spain, Morocco prime ministers meet at Rabat summit  | Israeli delegation visits Sudan to push for normalisation |

Quote of the Week

“After we lost hope, we were able to take out a family, a husband and wife and their three children. We cried out from joy after we had cried at how powerless we were.” — Syrian rescue worker Samer al-Omar after a team from the White Helmets rescued a family of five who had been trapped under the rubble of Monday’s earthquake for 40 hours.

Source: Al Jazeera