(photo credit: INIMAGE)
The Justice Ministry announced on Sunday that the Haifa District Attorney’s Office recently filed an indictment with the Haifa District Court against an additional man for causing an explosion atop a five-story building in Acre that caused three floors collapse, killing five people on February 17.
Though the actual indictment was filed last Wednesday, no announcement was made due to the Simhat Torah holiday.
Zecharya A’zeiri joins two previously indicted men, Muhammad Jarhi and Omar Halwani, who had charges brought against them in April for the explosion.
A’zeiri’s indictment came several months later because he was hospitalized until early September.
Jarhi, Halwani and A’zeiri caused the explosion in order to eliminate an antenna on the building’s rooftop, and were charged with multiple murders and other crimes, according to the indictments.
The indictments said that in the past, nearby residents had requested Ahmad Badar, who owned the rooftop, to remove the antenna, which they claimed was causing a number of local children in the area to get sick with cancer.
Less severe but somewhat violent past attempts had been made to tear the antenna down or burn it, said the indictments.
The indictments alleged that the three men approached the building from a high floor on a nearby building where one of them resided and poured flammable materials into the apartment unit that the antenna was on top of and lit the materials.
The size of the subsequent fire and explosion appears to have caught even the defendants by surprise, as all of them were caught in the explosion and the falling debris, and needed to be rescued from the rubble.
Magen David Adom described a rescue operation that sent paramedics racing on foot through the alleyways, holding whatever they could carry from the ambulances to the blast site.
At the scene, which they described as resembling an earthquake, they worked alongside soldiers from the IDF Home Front Command and the Oketz canine unit, officers from the Israel Police and the Border Police and municipality officials.
By mid-afternoon after the explosion, as the shop owners in the market shut their doors early in an act of mourning, the victims were named as Muhammad Bader, 43, and his wife, Hanan, 38, Najah Sarhan, 51, and her husband, Riak, 55, as well as their son Nasser, 8.
The antenna sat atop the building after the Acre municipality got rid of most of the pirate cellular antennas in the Old City in recent years.
The antennas were put up, residents said, to deal with the spotty reception in the serpentine alleyways of the ancient city, with building owners receiving payment from cellular companies to put up them up.
At the famous al-Jazzar mosque not far away, dozens of men milled around in the plaza, where food in large pots on hot plates provided by the Islamic Wakf was being served to relatives of the killed and well-wishers.
Among the mourners was Osama Gazawe, a former deputy mayor of Acre, whose cousin Najah was killed in the blast.
“We’ve never had a disaster like this in Acre. It’s a blow to the entire city,” Gazawe said, adding that Jews, Christians and Druse, as well as Muslims, had come by the mosque to pay their respects.