Israeli cabinet approves benefits for families of firefighters killed in forest fire

Israeli cabinet approves benefits for families of firefighters killed in forest fire

20 Dezember 2010

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Israel — The Israeli cabinet decided in its weekly meeting on Sunday to award financial benefits to the families of firefighters killed earlier this month when extinguishing a blaze that raged through the Carmel Forest in northern Israel.

The decision applies to firefighters Uri Semandayev and Danny Hayat. It also includes Elad Riven, a 16-year-old high school student who served as a volunteer with the northern firefighting services, and David Navon, killed while driving a bus which ferried prison service guards to evacuate inmates from a prison in the area. Hayat passed away on Saturday night, bringing the death toll from the fire to 44.

The families of the four, said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, will be awarded financial benefits similar to those given to families of fallen Israel Defense Forces troops. Firefighting personnel injured in the disaster will also receive improved compensation, according to a communique issued by the prime minister’s office.

“The firefighters selflessly fought the Carmel wildfire in order to take control of the flames and to try and rescue the prison service bus,” Netanyahu eulogized the fallen firefighters. He said the decision to award the benefits was made “in light of the special circumstances regarding the bus and of the firefighters’ heroism.”

The Israeli prime minister made no mention in Sunday’s meeting of the deficiencies of Israel’s firefighting services, which had received wide coverage in the national media over recent weeks.

A public outcry demanding the establishment of a governmental commission of inquiry ensued the blaze. Opposition parties in the Israeli government had joined the protest, calling Netanyahu and Interior Minister Eli Yishai, whose ministry is directly responsible for the firefighting services, to take “ministerial responsibility” and resign.

Netanyahu has thus far thwarted attempts to establish an investigative commission, which would have submitted personal recommendations against officials found responsible for the outcome of the fire.

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