On Friday, 7 August 1998 at approximately 1035 hrs. a car bomb exploded near the US Embassy in Nairobi, Kenya. As a result of the blast a building close to the embassy collapsed. The Prime Minister and Minister of Defense decided to send a search and rescue mission headed by the IDF Homefront Command.
The mission was comprised of 170 members and included representatives of the Homefront Command National Rescue Unit, dog handlers, regular personnel from the Homefront Rescue School, a Medical Corps delegation, Signals and Electronics Corpsmen, Public Affairs elements, representatives of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the press.
Appointed to head the mission was Homefront Command Chief of Staff Brig. Gen. Ilan Harari. The commanders of the forces in the field were: Col. Shalom Ben-Aryeh, Commander of the Homefront Command Rescue School and commander of the Search and Rescue Unit, Lt. Col. Nahum Frenkel.
The mission departed for Nairobi in the early morning hours of Saturday 8 August, and began operating in the disaster site just 23 hours after it received its first order. The IDF delegation was the first to arrive from abroad. It began to operate immediately upon arrival.
On 10 August, GOC Homefront Command Maj. Gen. Gabi Ophir joined the delegation to observe the force’s performance first hand.
The IDF mission succeeded in rescuing three individuals from the rubble.
IDF Sends Rescue Mission to Nairobi
The Chief of Staff, Lt. Gen. Shaul Mofaz, ordered Homefront Command Search and Rescue Units and Medical Corps teams dispatched to Nairobi, the Kenyan capital, to assist in rescue operations taking place in the wake of the blast which occurred near the United States Embassy. The rescue mission will be headed by Homefront Command Chief of Staff, Brig. Gen. Ilan Harari. ( in the picture: IDF rescue teams board Isral Air Force plane)
The Homefront Command Search and Rescue Unit will be equipped with sophisticated equipment and with the special canine unit. The Unit participated in previous IDF international rescue uoperations in Argentina, after the terrorist bomb attack in the Israeli Embassy, and after the earthquakes in Mexico City and Armenia. The Unit likewise saw action recently in Israel, when a roof caved in on a school gymnasium in Beersheba, and when part of a power plant collapsed in Ashkelon. The Medical Unit includes teams of physicians and medics specializing in trauma treatment.
August 8, 1900 HRS (1600 GMT)
IDF Rescue Unit arrives at Kenya Blast Site, Locates Survivors
The IDF Homefront Command Search and Rescue Unit has arrived at the site of the blast near the US Embassy in Nairobi, and has succeeded in locating several survivors. It is in constant contact with them and is laboring to extricate them from the rubble.
As of 1600 HRS (1300 GMT) the IDF Homefront Command SAR Units have begun to remove rubble from a building near the US Embassy in Nairobi.
Immediately upon the force’s arrival, the force began to search the destroyed building and carried out a rapid assessment of the situation together with Kenyan forces and US Embassy employees.
The Homefront Command canine unit likewise located a number of bodies and have so far extricated eleven.
IDF Unit Rescues Survivor in Kenya
At about 22:30 HRS, (1930 GMT), an IDF Homefront Command Rescue Team succeeded in extricating a survivor from the rubble of a building near the US Embassy in Nairobi .
The rescue lasted six hours and was carried out at peril to life. Members of the Israeli community in Nairobi watched as the hour long drama lasted.
>August 9, 1315 HRS (1015 GMT)
IDF SAR Team Rescues Trapped Mother and Son in Kenya; So Far Three Saved By IDF
An IDF Search and Rescue team searching a high-rise building adjacent to the collapsed building in Nairobi discovered a mother and son trapped on the eighth storey.
An IDF medical team is currently treating them. So far the IDF rescue mission has extricated three survivors from the rubble.
August 9, 1210 HRS (0910 GMT)
Kenyan President Visits IDF Rescue Mission, Thanks Israel For Aid
Kenyan President H.E. Daniel Toroitch arap Moi visited the IDF rescue mission near the US Embassy in Nairobi, Kenya.
The President, who was escorted by Israel’s Ambassador to Kenya, Mr. Mensahe Zipori, and by Homefront Command Chief-of-Staff, Brig. Gen. Ilan Harrari, thanked Israel’s Prime Minister, Mr. Benjamin Netanyahu, and the rescue mission for its outstanding work.
August 9, 2330 HRS (2030 GMT)
IDF Medical Teams Operate on Kenyan Victims
As of this afternoon (9August) two IDF Medical Corps surgical teams began operating on casualties of the attack on the US Embassy in Nairobi which occurred on Friday, 7 August.
The IDF teams are operating in Kenyata Hospital, Nairobi. Each team has an orthopedic surgeon and an anesthesiologist.
The IDF surgical teams have joined local medical teams and are operating in full cooperation with them. The surgeons are performing complicated operations and treating compound crush and break wounds. The IDF teams are scheduled to perform 14 operations. Col. Shlomo Amir, head of the IDF Medical Corps mission met with the Kenyan Minister of Health to coordinate medical cooperation and hospital work of the Israeli delegation.
This afternoon Israel’s ambassador to Kenya, Mr. Menashe Zipori accompanied by the IDF mission head, Brig. Gen. Ilan Harari and SAR team members Drs. Nahum Nesher and Gil Wiener, visited the wounded Kenyan whom the Israeli rescue team saved. The victim was operated on today and his condition has improved. He thanked his rescuers for their devoted care.
Meanwhile, the IDF Homefront Command Search and Rescue Unit operating in Kenya reports that in addition to the three survivors that they rescued, they uncovered 29 bodies in the rubble.
Rescue Teams Visit Kenyan Citizen
This afternoon, rescue teams went to visit the Kenyan citizen who was rescued from a building the US Embassy. The Israeli ambassador to Nairobi, Mr. Menashe Tzipori was escorted Brig. Gen. Ilan Harrari and by various heads of the IDF rescue teams: Dr. Nahum Nesher and Gil Weiner. The man who was rescued underwent surgery today and his condition is improving.
He thanked the Israeli rescue team for their dedicated rescue efforts and for the and for the flowers they brought with them along on their afternoon visit.
The hospital staff commended the medical IDF teams for their primary treatment of the victim.
Israeli Rescue Teams Return Home
21 Save and Rescue workers of the Homefront Command, who worked non-stop since there arrival at the bomb-site in Narobi, are returning tonight together with 16 medical-personnel in an IAF airplane. The hundred or so people which are staying behind will continue there work and searching for survivors.
Israel’s Homefront Commander travels to Nairobi
Commander of the homefront, Major General Gabi Ophir, left for Nairobi this evening to follow up on the work of the search and rescue teams at the bomb site next to the American Embassy. Major General Ophir will evaluate the situation together with the rescue force commanders and the medical teams about continuing their efforts.
Maj. Gen. Ophir Visits IDF Rescue and Medical Teams in Nairobi
Maj. Gen. Gaby Ophir visited IDF forces busy searching and rescuing thw wounded from the rubble near the US Embassy in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi.
Maj. Gen. Ophir heard updates from the commanders working in the area and surveyed the damaged structures.
In the afternoon, he visited the Medical Corps teams currently operating on the wounded in a Kenyan hospital. Maj. Gen. Ophir visited the person who was rescued from the rubble near the US Embassy by IDF forces on Sunday night.
The wounded man thanked Maj. Gen. Ophir for the rescue and treatment and for saving his life.
So far, 68 bodies have been recovered from the rubble.
IDF Homefront Command Search and Rescue Teams Conclude Mission in Nairobi
This evening, at approximately 1800 hrs., IDF Homefront Command search and rescue teams concluded their duties at a memorial service for the casualties of the US Embassy bombing in Nairobi, Kenya.
The ceremony was attended by US and Israel Ambassadors to Kenya, Kenyan search and rescue team commanders, the Americans, the French and Homefront Command Chief-of-Staff.
Upon clearing out the area at 10:00 hrs., the area was transferred to the Kenyan crews.
The head of the Unit which operated at the site of the bomb thanked Israel for its exemplary job of clearing out the site.
Soldiers of the Search and Rescue unit recovered 95 bodies and saved three people.
This evening, members of the Israeli delegation will be hosted at the Jewish Community center in Nairobi where members of the community will be awarded certificates for their help in clearing out the site and for the support they extended to IDF soldiers. The soldiers will return to Israel tomorrow afternoon.
On the Scene in Nairobi: IDF Medical Teams Treat Embassy Bombing Casualities
The IDF medical teams dispatched this week to Nairobi, Kenya performed life-saving operations and played a major role in treating and healing the victims of the August 7th bombing outside the American Embassy.
The Israeli army medical personnel included highly skilled orthopedic, general and trauma surgeons, anesthesiologists, neurosurgeons, and experts in the fields of critical care.
“There were about 1500 people injured by the explosion,” said Col. Yuval Weiss, the IDF Southern Command’s Chief Medical Officer, who returned this week after two days in Nairobi.
Dr. Weiss, an anesthesiologist, told of the IDF medical team’s arrival in the Kenyan capital and the steps taken to bring medical treatment to the wounded there.
Twenty six IDF medical personnel arrived there, of which 13 were doctors and the rest nurses, paramedics and medics. “We organized quickly after arrival in Nairobi. We then arranged for joint visits with the patients with the Kenyan doctors as well as the necessary operations” said Dr. Weiss.
He added that the IDF medical teams brought urgently needed expertise in general surgery, trauma, orthopedic surgery, and neurosurgery. They also brought blood for the wounded Kenyans.
The magnitude of the explosion made its mark on the IDF medical teams. “I’ve never encountered such a large number of wounded in my life,” said Dr. Weiss.
“Some of the Kenyan medical staff had actually trained in Israel, so they were aware of the level of proficiency we were bringing with us,” said Dr. Weiss, adding that “the Kenyans received us with open arms.”
IDF Rescue Mission Returns to Hero’s Welcome
The IDF Search and Rescue mission to Kenya returned to Israel yesterday evening (13 August) after six days of non-stop work in Nairobi.
The mission was greeted at Ben-Gurion Airport by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Shaul Mofaz, US Ambassador Edward Walker and senior Kenyan Embassy official Japhet Getugi.
Prime Minister Netanyahu, addressing the returning soldiers and officers said, “You did an outstanding job with all your heart.” He noted that one of the basic tenets of the IDF was to help the weak in time of distress.
Israeli Minister of Defense, Yitzak Mordechai, in a telegram to the returning delegation said, “The delegation is worthy of the highest praise for their courage, achievements, leadership and devotion.”
IDF Chief of Staff Mofaz said, “You returned from a humanitarian life-saving mission. You worked day and night. You distinguished the State of Israel and the IDF as sanctifiers of human life. We shall continue to develop this wonderful unit, all the while hoping that we shall not have need of its services.”
Ambassador Walker conveyed the appreciation of the President of the United States, the Secretary of State and the American people. Mr. Getugi of the Kenyan Embassy, noting that the efforts of the IDF SAR mission had earned international recognition, quoted the Mishnaic aphorism, “He who saves one life saves an entire world.”
OC Homefront Command Gaby Ophir said he was “proud to command the men and women wearing the yellow helmets of the SAR unit.”
The Israeli SAR mission succeeded in extricating three victims and in recovering 95 bodies. The 170-member unit was comprised of male and female regular and reserve personnel from Homefront Command and Medical Corps teams. The unit, which included engineers, heavy engineering equipment specialists, physicians, surgeons, paramedics, medics, and dog handlers, was fully operational at the disaster site within 23 hours of receiving orders to fly to Nairobi. As well as employing sophisticated instruments for locating trapped victims,the unit used specially trained sniffer dogs.
The medical contingent set up a first aid station on the site and its physicians, surgeons and anesthesiologists worked alongside Kenyan doctors in Kenyata Hospital, where 250 victims were hospitalized. The Israeli teams performed eight operations.
IDF Humanitarian Missions
Over the years, Israel has provided the most aid it could to countries requiring assistance. The IDF has often been at the center of these humanitarian operations and has made an important contribution towards saving lives in foreign countries.
Rescue of Wounded in Mexican Earthquake (September 1985)
On September 19th and 20th, 1985, two fierce earthquakes shook Mexico’s capital, Mexico City. The earthquakes left in their wake thousands of homes demolished, in which thousands of people lay trapped. In the wake of this disaster, it was decided that an IDF relief mission would be sent to Mexico City, along with tons of humanitarian equipment – medicines and tents, rescue equipment, professional rescue teams from the IDF’s Rescue Unit and medical teams.
Aid to Armenia (7 December 1988)
On December 7, 1988, a powerful earthquake hit Armenia and destroyed many towns across the entire country, leaving tens of thousands dead and injured, and many homeless. Around the world humanitarian aid missions were assembled, and they assisted the government of the USSR not only in rescuing and evacuating the injured, but also in distributing basic supplies.
Israel too sent an aid mission, which included a rescue unit comprised of rescuers, doctors and much needed supplies for the refugees.
Assistance to Romania (27 December 1989)
In the wake of the revolution in Romania, Israel dispatched to Bucharest a medical mission consisting of a team of surgeons. In addition, eight tons of food and medical equipment was sent in an IAF Hercules.
Assistance to Georgian Earthquake Victims (7 May 1991)
The IAF transported supplies to help earthquake victims in Georgia.
Assistance to Bosnia (18 August 1992)
In the wake of the civil war in Yugoslavia, Israel assisted victims by sending food and medicines. On 18 August 1992, an IAF plane carried 13 tons of emergency supplies to Zagreb.
Assistance in Evacuation Following the Bombing of the Israeli Embassy in Buenos-Aires (17 March 1992)
On March 17, 1992 a powerful bomb blast rocked the Israeli embassy building in Buenos Aires. The blast caused the collapse of the four-story building. Twenty-nine people were killed in the explosion and 250 were injured, many of them buried alive. Israel dispatched a Homefront Command rescue team and doctors, who were assisted by tracking dogs. The mission helped to extricate and thereby save the lives of many people buried under the collapsed building.
Humanitarian Aid to Refugees of the Rwandan Civil War (June – August 1994)
Bloody civil war broke out in Rwanda in 1994 between the Hutu and the Tutsi tribes. The fighting cost one million people their lives. As a result of the war, millions of refugees were concentrated in refugee camps in neighboring countries. On June 23 the IDF flew a medical team comprised of doctors, medical staff, medical supplies, food and clothing to assist the refugees concentrated in proximity to the city of Goma in Zaire. To ensure the security of the medical team, a unit of Givati Brigade soldiers was also sent. Some 270 IDF soldiers and officers spent 40 days in the field hospital at the refugee camp, and provided medical and humanitarian aid.
Assistance in Putting Out A Huge Fire in Turkey (4-6 July 1997)
On July 4, 1997 a huge fire broke out in a number of Turkish arms factories. The Turkish government turned to the Israel Air Force and asked for assistance in putting it out. The IAF sent assistance in the form of fire-fighting helicopters and sophisticated equipment. With the Israeli aid, Turkish efforts to put out the fire, which was threatening to engulf the adjacent city, were successful. The IAF received much praise for the successful aid.
IDF Rescue Mission in Kenya following US Embassy Blast (7 August 1998)
On the morning of 7 August 1998, powerful blasts rocked the US embassies in Nairobi, Kenya and Dar es-Salaam, Tanzania. In Nairobi, the blast took a toll of over 100 dead and thousands of wounded. When the extent of the tragedy in Nairobi became known, IDF Chief-of-Staff, Lt. Gen. Shaul Mofaz ordered the IDF to dispatch Israel Air Force planes with an IDF rescue mission to the Kenyan capital. The rescue mission included the experienced Homefront Command Search and Rescue Unit (equipped with sophisticated materiel and a canine unit), and Medical Corps teams comprised of physicians and medics specializing in traumatology, medical equipment and blood. The mission was headed by the Homefront Command Chief-of-Staff. Immediately upon their arrival in Nairobi on 8 August, the IDF mission began to undertake a SAR operation in coordination with the Kenyan and US forces operating at the site of the explosion. The Israeli team immediately located a number of trapped survivors and began operations to extricate them.
IDF Medical Mission to Assist Refugees from Kosovo in Macedonia (6 April 1999)
Early Tuesday Morning (6 April), the Israel Defense Forces dispatched a field hospital, under IDF Medical Corps Command , to assist Albanian refugees from Kosovo.
This operation comes in the wake of the Government of Israel decision regarding medical assistance to the refugees.
The IDF medical mission mission will be headed by COL Dr. Hezi Levi, Deputy Surgeon General of the IDF.
The mission landed in Skopje Macedonia and set up the 100-bed field hospital near the border with Kosovo.
The mission is comprised of seventy men and women, including physicians, (among them specialists in internal medicine, pediatrics, communicable diseases, orthopedics and gynecology), paramedics, nurses, medics, and X-Ray technicians. The field hospital will likewise include a medical laboratory, pharmacy and operating room.