Carmel Fire Death Toll Rises


JERUSALEM (JTA) — The number of Israelis killed in a massive fire in the Carmel Forest rose to 42 with the death of Haifa Police Chief Ahuva Tomer, who died trying to save fire victims.

Tomer, the highest ranking female police officer in the Israel Police, died Monday. She was burned over 90 percent of her body last week, after trying to assist prison guard cadets riding in a bus that caught fire while on its way to evacuate a prison in the path of the blaze. Most of the bus’ passengers died in the fire, as well as three volunteer rescuers.

She was the police chief since March 2009.

Also on Monday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered the finance ministry to provide immediately nearly $700 to each member of families who will be prevented from returning to their damaged homes for at least the next month.

The funds are designated for basic, emergency necessities such as clothing and shoes, and school supplies

The allocation came during a special Knesset hearing on the fire and its consequences, which opened with a moment of silence.

Meanwhile, two teenage brothers from the Druze village of Ussfiya arrested on suspicion of negligence in starting the fire and ordered held until midweek by a Haifa court, were unexpectedly released to house arrest on Monday. The teens are accused of lighting a bonfire near their home that sparked the blaze, though Ussfiya residents claim that a fire in a poorly maintained garbage dump near the village was the culprit.