Four Acre residents have been arrested on suspicion of causing the explosion at a residential building near the northern port of Acre on February in which five people were killed, according to information cleared for publication on Thursday. Two of the suspects arrested were wounded in the blast.
The suspects deny the allegations and claim that they sustained wounds when they came to rescue other people who were injured in the explosion. The names of the those arrested were cleared for publication as well: Omar Halwanni (18), Haled Bukai (19), Muhammad Jarchi (47) and Admad Khatib (22).
Following the blast, police explored the possibility that the explosion was criminally motivated, and the result of a dispute over an illegal antenna placed on the roof of the building. The blast, which claimed the lives of Nasser Aldin Sarhan, aged 8, his father Riak Sarhan, aged 55, his mother Nagah Sarhan, aged 51, and married couple Mohammed and Hanan Bader, aged 43 and 38 respectively, destroyed the building and caused severe damage to those surrounding it.
Omer Halwanni, one of the suspects arrested in connection to the Acre blast (Photo: Avishag Shaar-Yashuv)
Ruins of Acre building destroyed by blast (Photo: Avishag Shaar-Yashuv)
Police see the suspects as responsible for a relatively rare crime of "intentional killing while committing the criminal act", but the Hof District Central Unit, investigating the case, said that the charges may change to murder as the investigation progresses. In addition, police are examining if the suspects operated on their own or as representatives of a separate party.
One of the suspects, Omer Halwanni, told Ynet during his arrest that he is innocent. "I came to the area after the explosion occurred because I wanted to help evacuate the wounded that were trapped under the debris. As I was doing that, one of the walls collapsed on me and I hurt my back," he told. "I did not blow up anything, I did not burn anything, and was not acting on behalf of anyone," he claimed.
Photo: Avishag Shaar-Yashuv
Following the explosion, Halwanni was hospitalized at the Western Galilee Hospital in Nahariya, and was later transferred to the Israeli Prison Service hospital in Ramla. Halwanni was still suffering from back pain when he was brought to the court hearing, to the extent that the judge ordered that the suspect could lay down on his back, outside of the courtroom, during parts of the hearing.
Police officials said Thursday that the reports and findings are not yet fully compiled, but that they are in possession of sufficient evidence and testimonies that point to the suspects.
"Police and Fire Department forensic science investigators are only now arriving to the floor where the explosion itself occurred, and the collection of findings and information is still in progress," the Central Unit's Chief Superintendent Eli Asiag said.
"The investigation is still ongoing, and it is quite possible that more arrests will be made. We are exploring both the allegations in relation to the suspects that we have detained and in relation to other people, and are checking, among other things, if they operated on behalf of a third party," the Chief Superintendent added.