Palestine 'not ready' say geologists after Wednesday's earthquakes shake West Bank

Palestine 'not ready' say geologists after Wednesday's earthquakes shake West Bank
"People in the village were very scared and expected the worst, thinking that it was an extension to the earthquake in Syria and Turkey," said a resident of a Palestinian village near the epicentre.
4 min read
West Bank
08 February, 2023
The earthquake felt in the regions of Nablus, Ramallah and Jerusalem was not an echo of the Syria-Turkey earthquake, said Palestinian geologist. [Qassam Muaddi/TNA]

Two minor earthquakes struck the occupied West Bank on Wednesday, without casualties or major damage.

According to the Palestinian Seismology observatory, the main earthquake was south of Nablus, with a magnitude of 4.4 around midnight. Palestinians across the centre and north West Bank reported feeling a second earthquake about an hour later.

"I was at home with my wife and children when suddenly we felt the house shaking, in fact, it felt like the house was altogether moving from its place," Hamza Aqrabawi, a resident of the village of Aqraba east of Nablus near the epicentre of the earthquake, told The New Arab.

"People in the village were very scared and expected the worst, thinking that it was an extension to the earthquake in Syria and Turkey," said Aqrabawi. "Many thought that this was their last night, thank God, it was over without any tragedy."

The earthquake was felt in Jerusalem and Ramallah, some 36 kilometres to the south of the earthquake epicentre.

"I was falling asleep when I felt the bed shaking for less than a minute," Ayah Khalil, a resident of Al-Ram north of Jerusalem, said to TNA.

"I then began to speak to my friends on social media, and almost all of those living in Ramallah and its surroundings said that they had felt it," she added.

The earthquake was "not an echo of the earthquake in Syria and Turkey", according to the director of the Palestinian Seismology Observatory at the Al-Najah University in Nablus Dr Radwan El-Kelani.

"Echo earthquakes happen around the same epicentre of the original one, but the one that hit Palestine Tuesday night had a completely different epicentre," Dr El-Kelani told TNA.

"The epicentre of Tuesday's earthquake in Palestine was the Nablus-Carmel crack, which is a secondary crack to the Asian rift valley, which runs north to south along the Jordan Valley, with Palestine and Jordan on its east and west shoulders," explained El-Kelani.

"Around 200 major earthquakes happened with the epicentre at the Jordan Valley, around the Dead Sea in the last 2,000 years," noted El-Kelani. "Based on statistics, such major earthquakes have a repetition rate of short term, every 60 to 80 years, medium-term every 100 to 120 years or long term every 250 years."

The last major earthquake with its epicentre at the Dead Sea hit Palestine in 1927, causing hundreds of recorded deaths and large damage to structures, including houses, historical churches and the ceiling of the Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem.

"Palestinian geologists have been warning of a major earthquake since the mid-1980s, based on years counting since 1927," said El-Kelani.

"Because it hasn't happened in the last forty years, we expect it to happen in the coming years," he warned. "Unfortunately Palestine’s readiness is near to zero, and if other countries have had a hard time dealing with earthquakes of 7 or 8, Palestine wouldn't stand an earthquake with a magnitude of 6.0."

Meanwhile, Palestinians continued to react to the earthquake in Syria and Turkey. In Gaza, the Palestinian Red Crescent Society organized a blood-donation campaign for the earthquake victims in Syria and Turkey, lasting for two days.

"The campaign is a humanitarian gesture to express Palestine’s solidarity with the peoples of Syria and Turkey, who have always stood in solidarity with the Palestinian people," Haidar Al-Qadrah, director of the Khan Younis hospital in the southern Gaza Strip, told Palestinian media on Wednesday.

In Turkey, Palestinian journalists and activists organized a rescue-volunteering campaign titled, "Palestine Stands With You".

"We launched this campaign based on two principles; solidarity with the Syrian and Turkish peoples, and patriotic responsibility towards our Palestinian community in both countries, of whom hundreds of families have been affected by the earthquake," Mohammad Abu Taqiyeh, a Palestinian journalist and coordinator of the campaign based in Turkey, said to Palestinian media.

According to organisers, some 700 Palestinian volunteers are participating in rescue efforts in the earthquake-affected regions in Syria and Turkey.

The death toll of the earthquake in Syria and Turkey reached 11.000. They include some 63 Palestinians, according to the Palestinian foreign affairs ministry.