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Israelis Say Tsunami Aid Offers Not Embraced

Israel has offered its hard-won expertise in handling disaster and destruction to Sri Lanka and India in the wake of Asia's tsunami disaster, but has met a lukewarm response, Israeli officials said Friday.

Reacting to the devastating floods which have so far claimed more than 120,000 lives, Israel's army has sent 82 tons of medical and humanitarian equipment to Sri Lanka (search).

Israel's civilian rescue service, working with the Red Cross (search), sent an additional planeload of blood products.

Another 40 tons of supplies collected by private donors flew out Friday.

A plan to send 150 seasoned military medics and support personnel to set up field hospitals was, however, rejected, Israeli security officials said on condition of anonymity.

Israel's years of war with neighboring countries and bombing attacks by Palestinian suicide attackers have honed its rescue and recovery services and it has sent military medical teams to other countries hit by disaster, among them Turkey, Macedonia and Rwanda (search).

At the same time, Israel has come under repeated and harsh criticism in the international community for its tough response to the Palestinian uprising, and the sight of Israeli army uniforms may touch a raw nerve, particularly in countries with a large Muslim population.

Neither Israel nor Sri Lanka made any official comment on Colombo's rejection of Israeli army medical teams. A military spokeswoman said only that after consultation with Israeli officials, there was a decision to scratch plans to send service personnel and to dispatch instead "appropriate" aid.

She did not elaborate.

A senior Israeli Foreign Ministry official said help had also been offered to India, but New Delhi was not interested at the moment, although that might change as the extent of its needs became clearer.

India and Sri Lanka are among Israel's biggest arms customers, although details of their transactions are not publicized.

In the case of predominantly Muslim Indonesia, the Foreign Ministry official said, there were no official contacts at present, but that Israel stood ready to help if asked.

The Foreign Ministry says three Israelis have been identified among the dead in Thailand, where Israeli police and civilian forensic experts are working with local authorities. Another seven Israelis are unaccounted for throughout the entire disaster zone, the ministry said.