Police chief defends awards to Carmel blaze officers

David Cohen hands out bravery awards posthumously to families of 3 that died during fire; families of prison guard victims protest decision.

Dudi Cohen 311 (photo credit: Channel 10)
Dudi Cohen 311
(photo credit: Channel 10)
Police Insp.-Gen. David Cohen, at a police ceremony in Jerusalem on Wednesday night, defended a decision to issue bravery citations posthumously to three police officers who died in December’s Carmel fire.
Cohen’s defense came in response to a petition to the High Court of Justice by some families whose loved ones died in a bus filled with Prisons Service cadets that had been sent to rescue prisoners at the Shikma jail near Beit Oren. The families, which held their own ceremony near the fire site on Wednesday night, say that the awards should not be issued before a thorough investigation was launched into how the fires were handled.
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They allege that police mishandled the prison rescue operation and that this led to the bus disaster.
The High Court rejected their petition.
“I looked closely at the arguments and rulings in the High Court, and it pained me greatly.
A paradoxical situation has been formed. How can loss be measured?” Cohen said during the speech.
“My heart is with the petitioners who are crying out with pain because of the disaster which struck them, as well as with those who responded to the petition, relatives of police officers who died. I understand those who seek an investigation, including an examination check of police responsibility,” Cohen said.
But, he stressed, “the findings have nothing in them to change the fact that the police officers sacrificed themselves, and did not choose the easy way, of fleeing the area.”
Cohen said their bravery merited the awards, adding, “Today we salute the three officers for their activities in the struggle against the fire that raged through the Carmel – Asst.-Cmdr. Lior Boker, Ch.
Supt. Itzik Melina, and Asst.- Cmdr. Ahuva Tomer, whose heart did not stop beating until the fire went out.
“Their bravery and sacrifice does not require an examination or the approval of anyone.
It is not controversial,” Cohen said.
Earlier, the brother of a Prisons Service officer, Rami Yisraeli, who died in the fire, told Channel 1 he thought “all 44” victims of the fire, from the police and the Prisons Service, should be recognized.
“The struggle is not against bereaved families [of the police officers], but against the separation being made between the families of the Prisons Service and those of the police,” the brother, Ofir Yisraeli, said.
The families of the prison service officers held a demonstration at Beit Oren to protest the awards.