The IDF delegation of 70 soldiers and officers from Home Front Command and the Air Force who were sent to Mexico to assist in search and rescue operations returned to Israel on Thursday, where they were welcomed back by Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.
In addition to search and rescue efforts, the Israel team surveyed 158 buildings including hospitals, schools, kindergartens and government offices to determine whether they remained structurally sound after the quake. Both tasks had been specifically requested by the Mexican authorities.
“We are all proud of you. We all salute you!” Netanyahu told the group at a ceremony at Ben Gurion Airport.
“You are the long arm of Israel, the long humanitarian arm that reaches around the world, across thousands of kilometers, and you show the true face of the state of Israel.
“You spent last week, including Rosh Hashanah, in Mexico City, far away from your families, from our country. The earth shook there, and you extended a steady and sure hand to the citizens of Mexico. I must tell you that reports of what you did for them, first of all, have reverberated; and we saw the responses of people in Mexico and beyond.”
The prime minister recalled that he was informed of the earthquake as he was about to board the plane back to Israel after his U.N. speech, which had followed a visit to Mexico a few days before:
“On the ramp up to the plane, I received a telephone call from the Mexican Foreign Minister, and he told me that another earthquake had struck and that they were requesting that we send the same mission [as the one in the quake of 1985], the same ability and the same people to Mexico as quickly as possible. I told him that they were already on the way. You were already en route; you had already organized. You were the first to arrive and the last to leave…”
Also attending the ceremony were IDF Deputy Chief-of-Staff Maj.-Gen. Aviv Kochavi, Israeli Ambassador to Mexico Pablo Macedo Riba and GOC Home Front Command Maj.-Gen. Tamir Yadai.