JERUSALEM (Dec. 10)
The eight Israeli soldiers who were reported missing in yesterday’s predawn blaze that swept through an army barracks in Samaria were found dead after firefighters brought the fire under control and made their way through the rubble. Seven other soldiers (not 15 as inadvertently reported yesterday) were injured, none of them seriously.
Funeral services were held this afternoon for the eight victims. Thousands of people, friends, relatives, as well as soldiers and army officers attended the funerals in the cities in which the eight men had resided. The blaze was described as one of the worst tragedies in the Israel Defense Force within Israeli territory in peacetime.
The eight dead were identified as: Avraham Avizraz, of Netanya; Yaacov Avragil, Tel Aviv; Moshe Aharaon, Mevasseret Zion; David Lankry, Ashkelon; Roni Mazalevi, Ramle; David-Hayim, Markewitz, Jerusalem; Elhanan Nathan, Jerusalem; and Daniel Shuval, Jerusalem.
IDF LAUNCHES EXTENSIVE INVESTIGATION
The IDF has launched an intensive investigation into the cause of the fire at the Mavo Shiloh Artillery Corps base near Maale Ephraim overlooking the Jordan valley. The cause of the fire has not yet been established. Maj. Gen. Amnon Shahak, who is in charge of the Central Command, said the fire was probably caused by a lit candle that might have been knocked over accidentally or by a cigarette that had been left lit.
IDF investigators did not immediately rule out the possibility of terrorist action, but said this was unlikely. An army official at the camp said everything was being checked out. “Nobody heard an explosion. There were guards, but no one was seen running away. It looks like it was an accident.” Army trackers searched the area but found no foot-prints or any other sign of infiltration.
The fire spread through the 16-room barracks within a matter of minutes as several dozen soldiers were asleep. Most of the soldiers escaped through windows. Investigators said yesterday that the blaze spread quickly because the soldiers’ sleeping quarters were in prefabricated housing, made of highly flammable material. The speed with which the fire spread and the intense heat, made rescue work difficult and dangerous.