The mesmerizing and peaceful beauty of the surrounding snow-capped mountains stands in stark contrast to the hustle and bustle of the ruined city.
Large areas in the shell of the city of Gaziantep, one of the largest cities in Turkey, remain intact and it is not evident that they survived an earthquake.
But in one moment, in the heart of the city, the heart drops.
Buildings that have turned into ruins, layers upon layers of concrete ceilings that have shrunk and crushed everything in between, flying blankets caught between fallen walls, a bent blue bicycle on a pile of what used to be a house, an old woman hugging a woolen doll and clinging to it in despair.
Documentation: Rescue of survivors in Gaziantep // Photo: Israel Hayom sending to Turkey Yifat Ehrlich
The compound, which was once a residential neighborhood, became an arena of swampy mud and grayish dust.
It's all packed with people, old men, women and children.
Some warm themselves in the bitter cold in front of the fire.
Others wander around with a glazed look and can't believe their eyes.
Sometimes a howl of despair is heard.
The local rescue teams are working on the piles of concrete fragments to save the last survivors.
Yesterday I joined the rescue unit of the Home Front Command under the command of Col. (Ret.) Golan Vach. I was the first Israeli journalist on the scene to arrive on the ground and saw the pulsating activity of the members of the delegation, who have been there since yesterday night, working non-stop in a race against time and the cold. They don't stop eat, not even sleep, even though they have been awake for at least two days in a row.
Helped by the grace of heaven, photo: I.P.I
IDF soldiers in a rescue operation, photo: Yifat Ehrlich
By noon yesterday, they had already managed to rescue five people alive, including two-year-old Omar.
Seven hours since they managed to get to him, but still haven't been able to get him out.
From time to time a site silence procedure is carried out: all the bulldozer engines are turned off, the shovels are put aside, and everyone maintains complete silence.
In the silence that prevails, they listen with eager anticipation to the voices rising from the ground.
They check if Omar is still conscious, and every time he responds to voices, everyone raises their hands in thanks to Allah.
The moment a rescuer meets a living rescuer is a peak moment, but also a moment of despair.
It's one thing to reach a captive alive, and even succeed in infusing it, and quite another to succeed in extracting it whole from the ruins.
It was at this moment that Gil, a reservist, a member of the delegation, an engineer by profession, disintegrated.
"It's hard to rescue a baby. No one wants to work with something that reminds them of home," says Gil, father of two toddlers.
Children under shelter eat bread in Karamanmarsh, photo: AFP
"The locals who worked to rescue the baby were afraid to go in. They asked for help. I went in together with an officer, and then we saw the baby. At first I only saw legs and thought he was dead. I gently touched his leg and he moved. He cried - and I cried with him, then I tried to calm him down. I can look at trapped adults as objects, but it's different for a baby. It was too much. As an engineer, I realized that you can't extract him from the inside and you have to do it from above, peeling off the layers above him. I organized people and we started doing it."
After seven hours of work, Omer was rescued.
"Another member of our delegation took it out and passed it to me," says Gil.
"I took him to the doctor and from there he was transferred to the ambulance. It was a very emotional moment, but I didn't cry here."
Gil does not shed tears, but the friends with him on the expedition move aside, hug each other, wipe their moist eyes, regulate their fast pulse.
"It's like giving birth," says one of them, "just like giving birth."
The full article - tomorrow in "Israel this week"
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