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Senior Shas officials yesterday blamed deceased Haifa Police Chief Ahuva Tomer for the deaths of 44 rescue service personnel in the Carmel fire last month.

“The one responsible for the Carmel fire disaster is Ahuva Tomer, not Eli Yishai,” associates of the interior minister were quoted as saying.

Their comments came a day after Tomer’s partner demanded that Yishai be removed from a state memorial ceremony for the fire victims.

According to Yishai’s associates, Tomer had approved the passage of a bus − carrying Prison Service officers who had come to assist the fire rescue − through a road that ended up being encircled by flames.

Most of the Carmel fire’s 44 victims were cadets who died on the blazing bus. Tomer, who had been driving behind the bus, died several days later, after sustaining critical injuries.

Tomer’s partner, Danny Rosen, said yesterday that he planned to sue Yishai for compensation for the fire disaster. On Wednesday, Rosen called on the interior minister to leave a memorial event for the Carmel fire victims, saying he would depart if Yishai did not.

Other angry relatives of fire victims joined the protest, shouting that Yishai was to blame for the disaster and demanding that he leave. The interior minister consequently left the ceremony, accompanied by Sephardi Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar.

“Cadets shouldn’t have been there, they were told not to go, but the thing is that someone wants money from Eli Yishai,” a broadcaster on the Shas radio station, Kol Barama, said yesterday. “Now [the partner, Rosen] is running for political office and wants money. That’s the story.”

MK Nissim Zeev ‏(Shas‏) and Netivot kabbalist Rabbi Baba Baruch also came to Yishai’s defense yesterday. “His crime and sin was being an ultra-Orthodox Sephardi Jew,” Baba Baruch said.

The tragedy, in Zeev’s opinion, had nothing to do with Yishai. “Even new fire trucks couldn’t have prevented [the disaster],” he said.

Yishai visited his patron, Shas spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, yesterday, accompanied by the parents of Elad Riven, the 16-year-old volunteer firefighter who was killed in the Carmel forest blaze. Yosef embraced the parents, blessed them and consoled them. Confidants of the interior minister said the outburst in the ceremony was not brought up during the 10-minute meeting with Yosef.

‘Tarnishing Tomer’s memory’

Police officials fumed yesterday at what they called Shas’ “cynical and political” use of the fire victims’ memory.

Denouncing the comments made by Yishai’s associates, police officials said those who blame Tomer for the bus disaster are ignorant of the facts.

“It’s a shame those people are tarnishing Tomer’s memory in an effort to contend against Danny Rosen, her partner,” one officer said.

Yesterday, the bereaved families who had caused the commotion during Wednesday’s memorial ceremony demanded a state inquiry panel be established to probe the Carmel fire disaster.

“I have committed no crime. I lost my son-in-law, I don’t regret the fracas,” said Natan Zidki, father-in-law of Yaron Bermi, who died in the fire.

Relatives said they had expected the prime minister to say something about the disaster, to explain what had happened and to calm them down.

“When he didn’t I burst out, because there was no point in staying there,” Zidki said. “We want a state investigation commission that will expose the truth and whoever is responsible will pay the price.”

If such a panel is not set up, the families will consider petitioning the High Court of Justice to order the state to do so, Zidki added.

“The outburst was expected because the families have not been treated properly,” said Amit Klein, whose wife Topaz Even Chen Klein died in the fire.