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Palestinian firefighters 311 AP.(Photo by: AP)
Error keeps Palestinian firemen from attending ceremony
Firefighters who helped battle Carmel fire were barred from the country, did not attend ceremony at Usfiya in their honor.
A group of Palestinian firemen who aided Israel last week in battling the Carmel forest fire claimed they had been barred from entering the country on Tuesday to attend a ceremony in their honor – the latest in a series of embarrassments over Israel’s handling of the blaze.

The firefighters had asked to enter Israel to attend a ceremony at the Druse village of Usfiya in the North. Some of the firemen had entered the country last week to attend a ceremony at Beit Hanassi and received permits at the time from the IDF’s Civil Administration for Judea and Samaria.

Palestinian firefighters come to Israel's aide

UAL-Ta’al MK Ahmed Tibi, one of the organizers of the Tuesday event, said the ceremony had been called off when three of the Palestinians were refused entry.

During the struggle against the wildfire, the Palestinians said they were there to show that despite political tensions, the two sides could cooperate.

Defense officials said the Palestinians had contacted the civil administration on Monday night, saying they would like to attend the Usfiya ceremony. They were told to transfer a list of names for entry into Israel, according to the officials.

The list, however, was not provided by the Palestinians until Tuesday morning, the defense officials said.

The civil administration quickly began processing the names and was immediately able to approve a majority of them, but the Palestinians decided not to accept the permits if they were not issued for the entire delegation, a process that was completed in the early afternoon.

Despite the explanation, Ahmed Rizek, head of the Palestinian fire services, who did not receive his permit in time for the ceremony, said the denial of entry for no apparent reason was routine, and an example of what West Bank Palestinians put up with on a daily basis.

“They [the military] told me there was a mistake and that they didn’t mean it,” he said.

On Tuesday evening, civil administration head Brig.- Gen. Motti Elmoz met with Rizek to discuss the incident and ways to prevent it from recurring.

“We regret that certain elements are trying to negatively influence the coordination between the civil administration and the Palestinian security forces by misinterpreting a misunderstanding,” a defense official said. “The request was submitted without all of the details that were required on some of the Palestinians, and it was approved immediately after the mistake was clarified.”

AP contributed to the report.
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