After a delay due to harsh conditions on the ground in Nepal and a damaged airport runway there, a large IDF relief mission departed for the devastated region. 

The number of casualties killed in the massive earthquake in Nepal on Saturday continues to climb, and Israel’s rescue and relief mission has finally taken off. Their departure was delayed for several hours as a result of the difficult landing conditions in the disaster zone.

Only some among the IDF’s 260-member delegation of medical and rescue personnel already left. They will focus on establishing a field hospital with the capability of treating 200 wounded daily. The mission is bringing 95 tons of equipment and supplies.

The hospital will have two operating rooms, four intensive-care rooms, 80 hospital beds and specialists in neonatal and adult care. The team includes dozens of army physicians and reserves personnel who were called up on special orders. Col. Dr. Tarif Bader, the army’s deputy chief medical officer, is commander of the field hospital.

The delegation also includes a team of 60 experienced search-and-rescue specialists, which can operate simultaneously at three separate locations.

The IDF has vast experience deploying in disaster areas and has done so several times in several locations, including Haiti, the Philippines and Japan. IDF spokesman Lt. Col. Peter Lerner expects Israel’s field hospital to be the first in operation in Nepal.

Watch – IDF’s mission prepares for departure:

Joining the IDF is a Magen David Adom (MDA) relief mission, consisting of doctors, paramedics and members of the MDA’s Operations Division. The mission departed on Sunday in a special chartered plane, flying directly to Kathmandu. The plane is outfitted with medicine, baby formula and other supplies, with a special objective of reaching the Israelis held up at the Katmandu Chabad center.

The MDA team also intends to establish a forward emergency response post for initial treatment in Nepal and is preparing to send out an enlarged relief mission with more medical supplies and heavy equipment.

IsraAID, an Israeli NGO committed to providing life-saving disaster relief and long-term support to persons in need around the globe, also sent a team to Nepal. Its efforts will focus on relief, including distribution of food and non-food items, child protection and medical aid.

Netanyahu: This is the true face of Israel

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke on Sunday with the commander of the Israeli delegation to Nepal, Col. Yoram Laredo, before his departure.

Laredo updated the prime minister on the details, saying that an advance team had already landed and was preparing the infrastructure for the mission’s arrival.

“You are being sent on an important mission. This is the true face of Israel – a country that offers aid over any distance at such moments. Good luck. We are counting on you,” Netanyahu said.

President Reuven Rivlin spoke Sunday evening with senior Home Front Command officer Brig.-Gen. Yoel Strick, who was preparing to send the IDF team to Katmandu.

“My blessings go to all the team undertaking this brave and humanitarian mission. I am proud of you and your staff for their speedy and impressive enlistment at such a time of need,” Rivlin stated. “This delegation of ‘messenger angels’ represents the universal values, in the spirit of our people and our country, and through you I wish to thank each and every one of them.”

Strick said that he received hundreds of applications from professionals and rescue groups who wanted to be dispatched to this important aid mission. “We have set out on a mission that symbolizes all that the IDF stands for, and we are greatly proud,” he said. Strick thanked the president for his encouraging words, promising to pass them on to the members of the delegation.

While four Israelis have been rescued from Mount Everest, some 100 Israelis are still unaccounted for in Nepal. The first IDF plane containing Israeli survivors landed in Israel on Sunday night.

By: Max Gelber, United with Israel