Some countries reluctant to accept Israels help

jerusalem | Israel’s offers to aid Sri Lanka tsunami victims met a mixed response from government officials there last week.

Israel’s army sent 82 tons of medical and humanitarian aid to Sri Lanka, and Israel’s civilian rescue service, working with the Red Cross, dispatched a planeload of blood products. An additional 40 tons of supplies collected by private donors flew out Dec. 31.

But an offer to deploy 150 seasoned military medics and support personnel to set up field hospitals was initially rejected, Israeli security officials said on condition of anonymity.

Israel’s years of war with neighboring countries and bombing attacks by Palestinian suicide attackers have honed its rescue and recovery services and it has sent military medical teams to other countries hit by disaster, among them Turkey, Macedonia and Rwanda.

At the same time, however, Israel has come under harsh criticism in the international community for its tough response to the Palestinian uprising, and the sight of Israeli army uniforms might touch a raw nerve, particularly in countries with a large Muslim population.

Neither Israel nor Sri Lanka made any official comment on the island nation’s rejection of Israeli army medical teams. A military spokeswoman said only that after consultation with Israeli officials, there was a decision to scratch plans to send service personnel and to dispatch instead “appropriate’ aid. She did not elaborate.

A senior Israeli Foreign Ministry official said help had also been offered to India. But the government in New Delhi was not interested at the moment, although that might change as the extent of its needs became clearer.

India and Sri Lanka are among Israel’s biggest arms customers, although details of their transactions are not publicized.

The Foreign Ministry official said there were no official contacts with predominantly Muslim Indonesia, the country hardest hit by the disaster, but added that Israel stood ready to help if asked.