Carmel fire (Dan Amir)
Picture showing the Prison Service cadets’ bus and Haifa police chief Ahuva Tomer’s car moments before they were engulfed by the fire Thursday, Dec. 2, 2010. Photo by Dan Amir
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Hagai Fried
Interior Minister Eli Yishai at a ceremony for the Carmel fire victims, January 5, 2011. Photo by Hagai Fried

Associates of Interior Minister Eli Yishai said Thursday that deceased Haifa police chief Ahuva Tomer was the one responsible for the deaths of forty-four rescue service personnel in the Carmel fire.

"It's hard to say it, but the one responsible for the Carmel fire disaster is Ahuva Tomer, not Eli Yishai," senior officials in Shas were quoted as saying.

Yishai's associates put the blame on Tomer, saying that she approved the passage of a bus, which carried prison service course cadets who came to aid in the fire rescue, through a road that ended up being encircled in flames.

Most of the Carmel fire's forty-four victims were course cadets that died on the blazing bus, and Tomer herself died several days after she sustained critical injuries while driving behind the bus.

The comments by Yishai's associates come a day after Tomer's partner, Danny Rosen, called for the interior minister to leave a memorial ceremony for the Carmel fire victims, saying that he would depart if Yishai did not.

Many more angry relatives of the Carmel fire victims expressed their disappointment with Yishai during the ceremony on Wednesday, shouting that he was to blame for the fire and calling upon him to leave.

Yishai consequently left the ceremony, accompanied by Sephardi Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar.

Israel Police officials condemned the comments by Yishai's associates, saying they regret the "political and cynical" use of the Carmel fire victims' memory.

Police officials also said that those who say Tomer was responsible for the bus disaster do not know the facts. "It's a shame that those people are hurting the memory of Tomer in an effort to contend against Danny Rosen, her partner."

Channel 2 news reported on Thursday that Shas asked the Shin Bet to strengthen Yishai's security, following what they called "incitement that is reminiscent of the time period before the murder of [former Prime Minister Yitzhak] Rabin."