Israel refuses entry to Palestinian firefighters being honored for Carmel fire assistance
Ceremony forced into cancellation after only 7 out 10 granted permits; PA: How could the same men be allowed in to fight the fire but not to be honored for their assistance?; IDF: It was a bureaucratic mistake.
Israeli officials on Tuesday canceled a ceremony planned to honor the Palestinian firemen who assisted in battling the Carmel fire last week, after a number of crew members were refused permits to cross the border.
Palestinian Fire Services Commander Ahmed Rizik said that he and his staff were surprised to learn when they arrived at the checkpoint that only seven out of the 10 fireman would be granted entry into Israel, although all of them had been allowed in at the time of the disaster.
"There is no logical reason and I don't know what the catalyst was, but unfortunately we could not make it, and therefore the event has been postponed to a later date," he said.
The Israel Defense Forces said that the permits were denied due to a bureaucratic mistake, explaining that the list of names was processed without the firefighters' identification numbers attached.
The army said it was now working on getting the honorees the correct permits.
Israeli Arab MK Ahmed Tibi deemed the incident a "not just a march of folly or a theater of the absurd but stupidity and the normative lordly attitude of the occupation regime."
"This is a complete shame," he added.
The Palestinian Authority said in response that it had sent its firefighters out of "humane responsibility" and could not understand why those who risked their lives were now refused entry into Israel.
"It's not clear how the same firefighters who got permits to go out and help snuff the fire now are now refused permits to their honoring ceremony," said the PA.
"We did this despite the occupation because it was our humane duty," it added. "We knew the occupation would still be here after our assistance."
Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad had called President Shimon Peres less than a day after the fire began to offer the aid of Palestinian firefighting teams.
The fire in which 43 Israelis were killed, ravaging forests outside the port of Haifa, caught Israel without enough firefighting equipment, and forced Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to seek foreign help from about a dozen countries.