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Tragedy struck a Safed family early Monday morning when a fire swept through a Ganei Hadar neighborhood home while a young mother and four small children were trapped inside. Two of the children died as a result of the blaze while only the youngest victim, a three week-old baby, escaped with relatively light injuries.
The family's father, Yo'az Daudi, was returning from nighttime prayers at the Meron grave of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai at about six in the morning when he noticed flames pouring out of the family's apartment. The distraught father ascended to the roof to try to rescue them, but was forced back by the intense heat of the blaze.
In his anxiety while trying to unlock the blazing hot door to the building, Daudi broke his key off in the lock, further complicating rescue attempts, police said. Rescuers said that for a while, Yo'az's 26-year-old wife Atara could be heard screaming for help, but after a certain point, the screams stopped.
Neighbors and emergency teams finally succeeded in breaking down the door and entering the apartment, only to discover that some of their worst fears had been confirmed. They first came upon Atara lying unconscious in the kitchen, overcome by the smoke.
Rescuers searched the building and recovered three of the couple's children, all in critical condition, suffering from burns and smoke inhalation. Only after delivering them from the inferno did rescuers find three-week-old Neriya.
Police said that the mother had saved the tiny baby from further injury by placing him on the windowsill. Neriya was listed in good condition at Tiberias's Poriya Hospital.
The two younger children, two-and-a-half-year old Shirel and her year-and-a-half-old brother, Eliashiv, died a short time later at Poriya Hospital.
Atara and six-year-old Ra'aya were both rushed by medevac helicopter to Haifa's Rambam Medical Center. Both were listed in critical condition, with Ra'aya being treated in a pressure chamber. Neither know about the deaths of Shirel and Eliashiv.
Two police officers who were the first emergency response to the scene were also hospitalized for smoke inhalation and burns.
Police believe that the fire was started as a result of candles left lit while the family slept, and are unsure as to whether or not the mother had a key to open the locked apartment.