According to an article in today's Hebrew language daily, Yedioth Ahronot, New Zealand authorities have refused to allow Israeli rescue units into New Zealand to help search for missing Israeli tourists. Shortly after last week's earthquake in Christchurch, Israel offered to provide a variety of assistance to New Zealand, including highly specialized, experienced search and rescue units that could help locate trapped or missing people. New Zealand turned down the offer.
The article notes that search and rescue units from other countries were permitted but not from Israel. It highlights the lack of any clear explanation for this refusal. The Israeli rescue teams had been provided with detailed informaton about the likely locations of a number of missing Israelis and felt that they had a chance to provide a last bit of hope for the families of those who were missing.
Later today, the online news site YNet reported that New Zealand had now agreed to accept Israeli assistance in the form of sanitation, water purification and portable facilities - reversing its earlier refusals of any Israeli aid. However, there was no suggestion that New Zealand had changed its position on allowing the search and rescue teams.
A number of Israelis who were known to be in the vicinity of the earthquake remain missing. It would be truly unfortunate if lives were lost as a result of an ill conceived political decision.