Nearly a year after deadliest blaze in the history of Israel destroyed over 50,000 dunam (12,355 acres) of forest, the Haifa District Prosecutor's Office informed the families of the teens and the victims that the case has been closed.
Carmel fire (Photo:Dana Friedlander)
The decision was prompted by difficulties to indict the boys, aged 13 and 14, both residents of the Druze village of Usfiya, as the prosecution found it impossible to prove each suspect's actions during and after the incident.
The investigation, which began soon after the fire broke out, found that the blaze was caused by a burning piece of coal that fell off a hookah onto a pile of dry weed and trash. Six people were interrogated in connection with the case, two of whom were defined as primary suspects.
After the two were arrested, the prosecution sought to indict them for manslaughter, but the judge in the case said that there were no grounds for the charge.
Moreover, Ynet has learned that even those the two suspects reportedly confessed to the negligent arson, there were no evidence to back up the statement. One of the teens led the police to two spots where he and his friend smoked the hookah, but the inquiry found that the fire originated at a different site.
The prosecutor, Meital Chen-Rosenfeld, wrote to the victims' families to explain that the confluence of circumstances that caused the fire to spread – including the weather conditions, the area's topography and the state of the vegetation in the region – made it impossible to prove the suspects' guilt with the required certainty.
For the same reason, she added, it would be difficult to tie the ignition of the fire to the victims' deaths. The decision to drop the case was made unanimously and was submitted on behalf of the State Prosecutor's Office.
Nava Boker, the widow of police commander Lior Boker who died in the Carmel fire last year, said that the prosecution's decision to close the case against two teens suspected to have accidentally started the blaze "is a tough blow to the victims' families."
"It's unacceptable that 44 people are killed and no one is held responsible," she said. "Now any teen that plays with fire won't be afraid, and won't be aware that he's doing something dangerous."
Raanan Ben-Zur contributed to the report
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