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Two girls die of poisoning in Jerusalem

(JTA) — Two Jerusalem girls died after inhaling the fumes of a powerful pesticide.

Avigayil and Yael Gross, ages 2 and 4, respectively, died Wednesday after inhaling pesticide fumes that an exterminator left inside a room in their home.

The room was supposed to be sealed but fumes may have leaked, according to a report on the news site Ynet. The girls were buried Thursday.

The toxin, phosphine, also affected the girls’ two brothers, Michael and Yitzchak, ages 5 and 7, who are still in critical condition at Schneider Children’s Medical Center near Tel Aviv, according to Channel 2 news.

The parents of the children brought them to a doctor Tuesday because of diarrhea and vomiting, but medical staff failed to diagnose their condition as poisoning and prescribed paracetamol to reduce pain and fever, Channel 2 reported. The parents called an ambulance the following day when one of the girls stopped breathing in their apartment in Givat Mordechai, a neighborhood of Jerusalem.

Doctors at Schneider have no prior experience with phosphine and cannot offer any specific antidote, according to Dr.Efrat Baron-Harlev, the center’s deputy director.

The exterminator, a man with 30 years of professional experience, is being held by police pending an investigation to determine whether there are grounds for prosecution on criminal negligence, according to Channel 2’s website.

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