The Haifa District Attorney’s Office on Sunday filed an indictment with the Haifa District Court against two men charged with causing an explosion atop a five-story building in Acre that led three floors to collapse, killing five people on February 17.
According to the indictment, Mohammed Jarhi and Omer Haluani, who are charged with multiple counts of murder and other crimes, set off the explosion to eliminate a cellular antenna on the building’s rooftop.
The indictment said that local residents had asked Ahmad Badar, who owned the rights to the rooftop, to remove the antenna, claiming it had caused cancer in a number of local children. The indictment added that there had been previous attempts to tear down or burn the antenna.
A third man, Zecharya Zeiri, is also named in the indictment as having been involved in the explosion. However, injuries he sustained in the blast mean he’ll have to recover before he is tried.
The indictment alleges the three men approached the building from a high floor on a nearby building where one of them resided. They poured flammable materials into the apartment unit directly under the antenna and ignited them.
The extent of the subsequent fire and explosion apparently caught them by surprise, as all were caught by the blast and falling debris, and needed to be rescued from the rubble.
Killed in the explosion were Muhammad Bader, 43, and his wife, Hanan, 38; Najah Sarhan, 51, and her husband, Riak, 55, as well as their son Nasser, 8.
Magen David Adom described a rescue operation that sent paramedics racing on foot through alleyways, carrying whatever they could from the ambulances. At the blast site, which they described as resembling the aftermath of an earthquake, the MDA personnel worked alongside soldiers from the IDF’s Home Front Command and Oketz canine unit; officers from the Israel Police and Border Patrol; and municipal officials.
The specific antenna remained after the Acre Municipality removed most of the Old City’s pirate cellular antennas in recent years. The antennas were put up, residents said, to deal with spotty reception in the serpentine alleyways of the ancient city, with building owners receiving payment from cellular companies.