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Rescue services found the bodies of six members of a family who had all been killed at a partially-burned apartment in Rishon Letzion yesterday morning. The circumstances that lead to the fire and their deaths are being investigated under a gag order.

The bodies of the Oshrenko family - grandfather and grandmother Edward and Ludmilla, both 56, parents Tattiana, 28, and Dimitry, 32, and the children Revital, 3, and 4-month-old Netanel - displayed signs of violence.

There were stab wounds on all the bodies but one, and the apartment door was locked from the inside, reinforcing the theory that the massacre was perpetrated by one of the deceased. However, the possibility has not been discounted that the six people were murdered by someone who fled the apartment.

After the gag order on the details of the investigation was issued, police said they were taking their hunt in several different directions. Police questioned Yana, another daughter of the grandparents, who was not in the apartment at the time of the killings.

Firefighters and police rushed to the apartment on Nordau Road after receiving a report of a fire there. Firefighters broke down the entrance door and found bodies in two rooms; they took them outside, where Magen David Adom emergency services paramedics pronounced them dead.

After a preliminary inspection, medical sources said the victims had died from stab wounds, and not from the fire. Some of the victims were said to have been stabbed repeatedly.

The firefighters who broke into the apartment removed the victims in haste in the hope they might be saved by the paramedics, but this may have resulted in the destruction or contamination of some evidence.

A large number of police officers arrived at the scene, headed by Nissim Mor, the commander of the Central District, who opened the investigation of the case.

Effi Bar, the deputy director of Magen David Adom in the Ayalon district, described the scene rescue workers found: "This was a very difficult sight," he said. "Every case of death is tough, but I don't remember a case as big as this, with such tragic consequences."

A firefighter who had been present at the site, Itzik Levy, later spoke of his horror. "After we discovered that the door was locked, we broke it down and got control of the fire and then we discovered the bodies - four adults and two children, who were already lifeless," he said. "It was a horrific sight."

Tourism Minister Stas Misezhnikov, a close friend of the Oshrenko family, visited the apartment where the murders occurred, saying that "we have to do something quickly to restore the sense of security to the citizens of Israel." He added that he had spoken to the prime minister and the public security minister on the matter.

Misezhnikov, a resident of Rishon Letzion, recounted his relationship with the family. "On a personal level, it is harder for me. I watched this family set up a business, succeed in their new life in Israel, and I took part in their family celebrations."

The minister lamented the "very thought that I will never see these people again, after they were slaughtered like sheep."

Tattiana and Dimitry, who immigrated to Israel in 1990, lived together with the grandparents and the children in the apartment. The family owned several businesses, some of them successful, such as the Premier restaurant, which is favored by immigrants from the former Soviet Union. They also owned a deli in the center of Rishon Letzion and another restaurant, Shannon, in Ashdod.

Police are investigating whether the killings could have something to do with the family businesses, which some people in the field described as being "among the most successful businesses for the Russian-speaking public."

Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch visited the murder scene late yesterday, where he was briefed by police, as neighbors stood on their balconies looking at the scene.