The Israel Police arrested Thursday on suspicion of arson the owner of the Jaffa paint store that exploded on Tuesday, causing the building to collapse and claiming the lives of three people.
The store owner denies all accusations made against him.
"It is unfortunate that he is being accused of a crime he did not commit. I am confident that his name will be cleared in court," said his lawyer, Walid Kabub.
The victims of the explosion were identified as Ali Abu Jamaa, 22, of Tayibe, Rimon Huri, 20, of Jaffa, and Mohammad Yassin of Tulkarem.
Jamaa and Huri, who worked in a restaurant in the city, were found dead in their beds behind the store, which collapsed from the explosion's impact.
Soon enough, questions arose regarding the circumstances of the explosion. "We don’t know exactly what happened, but something doesn’t add up," said a police source involved in the investigation. "Suspicious substances were found at the site, and maybe they caused the explosion. They were sent to the lab. They are not necessarily combustible materials from the shop, and that’s why we are looking into it. It can seem like a deliberate act."
The initial assessment was that a gas leak caused the explosion. Since then, however, additional possibilities arose and were being looked into, including the possibility that a dispute led to arson being committed.
The shop was located among residential buildings in the Ajami neighborhood of Jaffa. Due to the presence of highly flammable gas canisters, nearby residents were evacuated.
It took six fire squads to put out the flames including "Lahava," the elite firefighting unit that responds to special situations.
Rescue units of the Home Front Command, who are currently training at the ruins of the former Bezeq building in Tel Aviv, were also on hand.