Jews and Arabs united in mourning and anger at a packed funeral Monday for victims of a gas explosion at a residential complex in Acre.

Five people – two couples and an eight-year-old-boy – died and 12 others were injured, including three children, in the northern Israeli city of Acre (Akko) early Monday morning following the explosion of a propane tank at the entrance to a residential building. on Monday. Emergency rescue crews continue to search under the debris for missing persons, and police acknowledge the possibility of foul play.

The explosion caused a side of the building to collapse, and an as-yet-unconfirmed number of people have been trapped under the rubble.

The funeral procession, attended by more than 5,000 Jews and Arabs, took place outside the Al-Jazzar mosque in the Old City neighborhood.


“All of the residents of Acre, Jews and Arabs, have united today in mourning over this terrible tragedy,” former Member of Knesset Abbas Zakour stated, according to an Israel National News report. He credited local residents as well as professional medical teams that immediately joined rescue efforts following the explosion.

“Emergency rescue crews, Home Front Command employees and members of the Israel Defense Forces’ elite canine unit worked overnight at the scene and continued to search for survivors,” the daily Ha’aretz reports, adding that a family of four and an unharmed baby had been pulled out.

The cause of the explosion is under investigation, Acre Mayor Shimon Lankri confirmed. Initially, it was assumed to be an accident, but police are now considering the possibility of foul play.

The mayor told Channel 2 TV that the city’s welfare department was trying to find temporary housing for the building’s residents.

Israel National News quoted a police official who confirmed that they “know there was a cellphone antenna on the building, and this had caused a bitter dispute in the neighborhood. It’s possible that this explosion was caused on purpose, with someone setting the gas canister to explode.”

Local police commander Haggai Dotan said that the investigation will be “all-encompassing, including a criminal aspect,” Ynet news site reports, quoting Dotan as saying that there were cellular antennae on the roof and investigators are looking into the connection.

“All the buildings in the Old City of Acre, where the blast occurred, received a request to take down their cellular antennas, but the building that collapsed was the only one that did not do so,” Ynet continues.

Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch said police “would explore every possible lead,” Israel Hayom reports.

Dr. Masaad Barhom, director-general of the Western Galilee Hospital in nearby Nahariya, told reporters that “all of the patients presented wounds consistent with the collapse of a building, and not [from[ a direct exposure to explosives or gas,” says Israel Hayom.

“Several nearby buildings sustained severe damage as well,” Israel Hayom adds. “As a precaution, the street’s residents were evacuated, but most were allowed to return to their homes after several hours.”

The victims were identified as Raik and Najah Sarhan and their son 8-year-old son Nasser, and Mohammed and Hanan Badar. Nasser’s 10-year-old sister was lightly injured.

In January, a gas cylinder exploded in a Jerusalem residential building, killing a family of three and injuring 15. A technician had reported fixing a leak shortly before the incident occurred.

Date: Feb. 18, 2014