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Three people drowned following an announcement by the Lifeguards Union that they would go on strike and leave the crowded beaches early Saturday evening. The drownings brought to five the number of people whose lives ended on Israel's beaches over the weekend.
The lifeguards' strike went into effect everywhere except Tel Aviv and Haifa at 5 p.m. Saturday after salary negotiations between the Center for Local Government and lifeguard representatives had ground to a standstill. Rookie lifeguards currently earn NIS 19.50 per hour, minimum wage.
During a weekend session of the Labor Court, judges determined that the lifeguards' strike would be limited in its scope to prevent the kind of casualties seen during the last such strike. In Tel Aviv and Haifa, they determined, the lifeguards would continue work as usual, whereas elsewhere they could leave the beaches two hours early.
The Center for Local Government had turned to the Labor Court to try to prevent the lifeguards from striking altogether.
In Netanya, one man drowned and his friend was pulled out of the water and hospitalized in serious condition at the city's Herzl Beach, in the hours following the beginning of the strike. At almost the same time, a foreign worker drowned at Netanya's Siranot Beach.
Also on Saturday evening, a 44-year-old Ashdod resident drowned on the Arches Beach in the southern city. Police said that Merv Betzkashvili and his family entered the water after the lifeguards had ceased work. Another bather who saw Betzkashvili's body pulled him out of the water, and passers-by alerted MDA teams to the scene. Although medics attempted to resuscitate Betzkashvili, he was pronounced dead on the scene.
Late Thursday night, Vered Adif, 17, drowned at the same Ashdod beach. She came to the beach with her cousin and a group of teenage girls from Kiryat Malachi. The girl disappeared, and it was only later - when civilians found her body - that it became evident that she had drowned. The witnesses called MDA teams, who were forced to pronounce her dead upon their arrival to the scene.
The girl's body was sent for a forensic examination to determine if the cause of death was, as suspected, accidental drowning.
Early Saturday afternoon, police in the Hof Subdistrict received a report of a body that had washed up on the coast three kilometers south of Atlit. Police said they believe that the victim, a man in his twenties, had drowned to death. The body appeared to have been in the water for a number of hours, and there were no signs of violence. Late Saturday night police identified the man as a 25-year-old resident of Daliat al-Carmel.
The Israel Meteorological Service warned throughout the weekend that, due to high waves and rip tides, bathing on the Mediterranean beaches would be dangerous. Since the beginning of the official bathing season in April, 19 people have drowned.