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Israel Offers Assistance After Devastating Terrorist Attacks in Sri Lanka

Israel has offered Sri Lanka assistance in the aftermath of devastating suicide bombings at churches and hotels on Easter Sunday that left nearly 300 people dead and more than 500 injured.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu expressed “deep shock over the murderous attacks against innocent civilians in Sri Lanka.” The Israeli leader, in a statement released on Sunday, said that “Israel stands ready to assist the authorities in Sri Lanka at this difficult time.”

He added: “The entire world must unite in the battle against the scourge of terrorism.”

Sri Lankan authorities have arrested 24 people in connection with the suicide bombings and labeled those responsible “religious extremists.” The government on Monday said that a local jihadist group – the National Thowheeth Jama’ath – was responsible for the massacres.

NTJ came to notice last year when it was linked to the vandalization of Buddhist statues. Sri Lanka is predominantly Buddhist, with significant Hindu, Christian, and Muslim minorities.

“The attacks in Sri Lanka, including those at prayer celebrating Easter Sunday, are a despicable crime. We are all children of God; an attack on one religion is an attack on us all,” Israel’s President Reuven Rivlin wrote on Twitter. “Israel sends condolences to the families of the victims and wishes for the recovery of the injured.”

One church, St. Anthony’s Shrine, and the three hotels in Colombo are frequented by tourists. Sri Lanka’s Foreign Ministry said that at least 36 foreigners were among the dead. Countries that have confirmed their citizens were killed in the attacks include the United States, Australia, Britain, Denmark, Portugal, Japan, and China.

The prime minister’s office said that Meir Ben-Shabbat, the head of Israel’s National Security Council, had spoken to Udaya Seneviratne, secretary to Sri Lanka president Maithripala Sirisena, to offer Israeli humanitarian aid.

The American Jewish Committee (AJC) and United Hatzalah teamed up in January to train first responders in Colombo in mass casualty incidents and disaster management. The Sri Lanka military, police force, search and rescue units, and the fire department took part in the exercise and learned techniques developed in Israel to deal with large-scale attacks and natural disasters.

[Photo: CBS News / YouTube]