A 14-year-old boy admitted yesterday that he threw a piece of burning coal into the Carmel Forest and caused the most devastating fire in Israel's history.
Under interrogation, the teen admitted that he smoked a water pipe in the forest and later disposed of a piece of burning coal in an open area there, starting the fire. He said he was so astonished by what had happened he ran back to school and didn't report the incident.
He was arrested after police gathered testimony from a number of local residents. The teen reenacted the incident for the police yesterday afternoon.
He will be brought before the Haifa Magistrate's Court today for a hearing on extending his detention. Earlier yesterday, the Haifa Magistrate's Court released two teenagers who had been suspected of igniting the fire. Police had arrested the brothers, 14- and 15-year-old residents of the Druze village of Isfiya, on Saturday. The court had remanded them for three days.
The brothers' father said the two were not responsible for starting the fire and were not present when the blaze started. The court ruled that there was no solid evidence implicating them.
"My sons are innocent," the father said. "The policemen came and took them away from home as if they were terrorists." According to the father, the fire broke out several kilometers away from the family's house. He claimed that he and his children had no connection to the fire and that they later helped in efforts to put the blaze out.
"They are not connected to this, they do not smoke and they did not build a campfire. They are good and innocent kids and we will not let them be maliciously framed."
He added: "I am pleased with the court's decision. I have good feelings because the children have returned to me." He said he was pained by the disaster that the region was suffering. Two other young suspects were also questioned in the case but were released due to a lack of evidence.
During a situation assessment on Saturday at the northern police headquarters, Police Commissioner David Cohen confirmed that the fire was caused by negligence, not arson. The Carmel fire claimed 42 lives and destroyed nearly 50,000 dunams of land in the region.
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