By The Associated Press
Emergency crews made a series of dramatic rescues in Turkey on Friday, pulling several people from the rubble four days after a catastrophic 7.8-magnitude earthquake killed more than 20,000. Temperatures remain below freezing across the large region, and many people have no place to shelter. The government has distributed millions of hot meals, as well as tents and blankets, but is still struggling to reach many people in need.
The Latest on the earthquake:
ALEPPO, Syria — Syrian President Bashar Assad has accused western countries of politicizing Syria’s humanitarian crisis following the Feb. 6 earthquake.
Assad spoke briefly to reporters Friday in the demolished Masharqa neighborhood of Aleppo during his first visit to the quake zone following the 7.8-magnitude temblor.
He said: “The West has no humanitarianism, therefore politicizing the situation in Syria is something they would naturally do.”
The devastating damage to Aleppo, Syria’s second and largest city, compounds the woes of the war-scarred city that faced years of bombardment in the 12-year conflict, much of it by Assad’s forces and those of his ally, Russia.
During his visit to Aleppo on Friday, Assad visited Aleppo University Hospital and then met with rescuers in Masharqua, where paramedics on Thursday removed the bodies of 44 people and seven others alive from one building.
World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus and Dr. Michael Ryan, WHO’s head of emergencies, were also arriving in Aleppo on Friday to help coordinate and support the delivery of aid.
— Death toll rises, rescues dwindle in quake aftermath
— Powerful quakes link Turkey, Syria and Japan in suffering
— Turkey’s lax policing of building codes flagged before quake
— Syrian orphans taken in by overwhelmed relatives
— A glance at the world’s deadliest quakes in the past 25 years
— Find more AP coverage at https:// apnews.com/hub/earthquakes
BAB AL-HAWA, Syria — A United Nations spokesperson says the first earthquake-related aid convoy of 14 trucks has crossed from Turkey into northwestern Syria.
The road to the Bab al-Hawa border crossing was obstructed for days following the earthquake due to road damage and debris from collapsed buildings. The U.N. spokesperson confirmed the convoy’s crossing into Syria to The Associated Press confirmed on Friday.
A convoy of six trucks containing shelter items crossed the border Thursday, though it was intended to enter the rebel-held Syrian enclave before the earthquake.
The United Nations is not authorized to deliver aid into Syria through other border crossings under a U.N. Security Council resolution.
—By Kareem Chehayeb in Beirut.
The Kurdistan Workers’ Party has declared a cease-fire in its conflict with Turkey to facilitate rescue operations following the devastating earthquake.
According to a spokesperson for the group, Zagros Hiwa, the cease-fire comes on the orders of PKK leader Cemil Bayik “to allow rescue operations and reduce pain of affected people in disaster zone.” Hiwa added Friday that it is an “open cease-fire” but “depends also on Turkey’s response,” meaning “if they attack us, we will respond.”
The Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, has waged an armed insurgency against Turkey since 1984 with the aim of establishing a Kurdish state in southeast Turkey, which has since morphed into a campaign for autonomy. The conflict between militants and state forces has killed tens of thousands of people.
NICOSIA, Cyprus — The Foreign Ministry of ethnically divided Cyprus says Turkey has “kindly declined” its offer for a rescue team to help with the search for people trapped in collapsed buildings following Monday’s devastating earthquake.
The Foreign Ministry said in a tweet Friday that the offer, which had been initially accepted, “still stands” and expressed gratefulness for professional rescuers “ready to save lives everywhere.”
A 15-member Cypriot team of rescuers as well as a doctor and a paramedic had been on standby since Wednesday to travel to Turkey as part of the European Union’s Civil Protection Mechanism.
Turkey doesn’t recognize Cyprus as a state and has stationed thousands of troops in the island’s breakaway Turkish Cypriot north since 1974, when it invaded following a coup there aimed at union with Greece.
Non-governmental organizations, private citizens and other groups in the Greek Cypriot south are organizing a food, clothing and medicine collection drive for Turkey’s quake-hit areas.
ALEPPO, Syria — Syrian President Bashar Assad has made his first public appearance in the earthquake-devastated areas of Syria.
Four days after the 7.8-magnitude temblor, Assad and his wife, Asmaa, visited wounded patients Friday at the Aleppo University Hospital, Syrian state media said.
Aleppo is Syria’s second city, already scarred by years of heavy bombardment and shelling, and was among the most devastated cities by the Feb. 6 earthquake.
Assad has been meeting with delegations from countries sending aid, but until now those have taken place in Damascus. Friday’s visit to Aleppo marked his first visit to the earthquake-affected areas.
TOKYO — Japan is providing emergency blankets, sleeping mats, plastic sheets and tents to Syria following the Feb. 6 earthquake.
The Japanese Foreign Ministry said Friday the shipment of emergency humanitarian aid was sent at the request of the Syrian government and was being provided though the Japan International Cooperation Agency, or JICA.
Japan has dispatched a team of about 70 search and rescue workers to Turkey.
The quake killed more than 21,000 people in southeast Turkey and northwest Syria.
WASHINGTON — The U.S. Treasury Department said Thursday it has issued a license to allow earthquake-related relief to get through that would otherwise be prohibited by sanctions on Syria.
“U.S. sanctions in Syria will not stand in the way of life-saving efforts for the Syrian people,’’ deputy Treasury secretary Wally Adeyemo said in a statement. “While U.S. sanctions programs already contain robust exemptions for humanitarian efforts, today Treasury is issuing a blanket General License to authorize earthquake relief efforts so that those providing assistance can focus on what’s needed most: saving lives and rebuilding.”
The license lasts for six months. It expands on broad humanitarian authorizations already in effect.
The United States will provide $85 million in initial earthquake aid to Turkey and Syria, which will include medicine, shelter and other supplies, President Joe Biden announced. “Our hearts remain with the people of Türkiye and Syria,” he said on Twitter.
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