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Cohen Salutes Israeli Rescue Effort

By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service

TEL AVIV, Israel, March 15, 1999 – When terrorists strike one nation, it represents a strike against all peace-loving nations, Defense Secretary William S. Cohen said at the Israeli defense ministry here March 12.

Cohen spoke at a ceremony honoring Israeli search and rescue forces that rushed to Kenya after a terrorist bomb exploded near the U.S. embassy in Mombasa Aug. 7, 1998. "We can defeat this common and cold-blooded threat only by standing together," the secretary said.

Within 23 hours of receiving orders, 170 Israeli reservists reached the scene in Kenya and began rescue operations. They were the first outsiders to reach the site of the blast that had injured about 1,500 people. For the next six days, Israeli engineers, physicians, surgeons, paramedics, medics and dog handlers helped search the wreckage, rescuing three survivors and pulling 95 bodies from the rubble.

Praising the Israeli forces for their skill and mercy, Cohen noted that they had flown "into the horror of twisted metal caused by twisted minds. You showed the world that amidst the debris of cruelty there is a compassion that has the power to restore faith," Cohen told the Israelis. "You have triumphed over those who live by fear and terror. You have shown them in the face of hate and horror you stand ready to answer the call."

In addition to the Kenya rescue effort, Israeli defense officials said, their rescue forces went to Turkey in 1994 to fight arms factory fires, to Rwanda in 1994 to help civil war refugees, to Armenia in 1988 and Mexico in 1985 to help earthquake victims.

Israel was Cohen's last stop on a nine-day, nine-nation trip to the Persian Gulf and the Middle East. He returned to Washington March 12.

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