A total of five persons perished on Sunday during an apartment fire in the Talpiot neighborhood of Jerusalem in what is suspected to be a murder-suicide. The deceased included a 36-year-old mother, and her four children, including two girls of approximately 12, one of approximately seven and a toddler of about two.
Israel Police suspect that the mother killed the girls and then committed suicide. Firefighters said that they suspect that the mother set her children aflame with an accelerant, possibly strangling them first, and then killed herself by hanging. The family had immigrated to Israel from France.
Emergency services were informed of the fire while it was still burning in the sixth-floor apartment. Once it was controlled, paramedics attempted to revive the deceased.
Menachem Estrick, the first Magen David Adom medic to arrive on the scene told the press, "When I got here I saw smoke coming out of a window on the top floor. I went up immediately and went into the house, which was full of smoke, together with firefighters who broke into the apartment. I saw a woman in her 30s unconscious, with no pulse and not breathing, I did some first aid, but she did not respond. A short while later she was confirmed dead.
"Firefighters found four children, aged 3-12, unconscious and badly burned. They pulled the children onto the porch in order to administer medical treatment and to resuscitate them, but a short while later we had to confirm that they had died."
Volunteers from the United Hatzalah Psychotrauma Unit worked to stabilize the husband and father of the woman and children who perished in the fire. According to Jerusalem District Police Commander Yoram Halevy, the father was located nearby. The police will be conducting an investigation into the deaths. All the bodies were taken for autopsies.
ZAKA Jerusalem volunteer Shalom Klein said "This is the most shocking scene. I arrived at the scene of the fire, and the neighbors brought me to the apartment balcony. The mother was dead. Her four children were burned to death. ZAKA Jerusalem volunteers are dealing with the bodies and collecting the remains."
While the city of Jerusalem and Welfare Ministry stated that the mother was not known to welfare services, the police stated that she had received psychiatric treatment in the past. The municipality did clarify that the mother had telephoned welfare services three months ago to enquire about babysitting services. The local welfare office explained that none were provided by them, but they invited her to visit them in person to discuss other available services. The mother did not contact them again.
Omri Efraim, Yael Freidson, Kobi Nachshoni, Liran Levi and TPS contributed to this report.