Jaffa Blast: Three Killed After Explosion Causes Building to Collapse

Police question the owner of the hardware store in Jaffa, south of Tel Aviv, where the blast occurred on suspicions of negligent homicide

The scene of an explosion in Jaffa, Israel, November 28, 2017.
Moti Milrod

The owner of the Jaffa hardware store where an explosion killed three people Monday night was questioned by the police on Tuesday on suspicion of negligent homicide. He was released subject to restrictions. 

In addition to the fatalities, four people were lightly injured in the blast. The explosion also caused the one-story building to collapse and ignited a fire.

Both the police and the fire departments, which are jointly investigating the incident, believe the blast was caused when a cooking gas canister exploded. They said the store, Sabr Hardware, has no business license, as it never received a permit from the fire department.

Two of the people killed have been identified as Rimon Khoury, 18, of Jaffa and Ali Abu Jamaa, 22, of Taibeh. Both were inside an annex of the building when the blast occurred.

The scene of an explosion in Jaffa, Israel, November 28, 2017.
Moti Milrod

The third fatality, a Palestinian in his thirties, was found by emergency responders in critical condition in the courtyard of the building. He was taken to Wolfson Medical Center in Holon, but died there Tuesday morning.
Two of the injured were driving by the building, which is located on Yefet Street, when the blast occurred, causing their vehicle to overturn. The other two were walking down the street at the time of the explosion, which occurred at about 11 P.M. All four were taken to Wolfson hospital. Three other people were treated at the scene for shock.

A relative of Khoury’s said he worked as a delivery person for a hamburger restaurant and had been delivering an order to a customer in a home adjacent to the hardware store when the blast occurred. “His family hasn’t yet digested this terrible tragedy,” he added. “Ever since we were informed, we’ve just been crying, and we are having trouble believing such a thing could happen. He was a good boy, and very well known in our community.”
Abu Jamaa worked at the hardware store and lived in a rented apartment behind it. He was apparently the customer who ordered the delivery Khoury had brought.

“There was a crazy explosion, the whole area was shaking,” said one person who lives nearby. Another person, who was in an adjacent building, told Haaretz: “At first we thought there was a car bomb. The whole street filled with the stench of building material.”

“We were sure a missile had hit the building,” Mary Abu, another resident of the area, recalled on Tuesday. “There was a loud boom. All the windows shattered. My husband was taken to the hospital. The glass flew all over the house. I was lucky I wasn’t sitting at the computer by the window. My legs are still shaking.”

Emergency responders, including those from the army’s Home Front Command, continued to search for people trapped under the rubble into the night on Monday. The bodies of the dead were only recovered after more than two hours of rescue efforts. Police closed off some of the roads near Yefet Street to assist the rescue efforts. Due to confusion among the emergency responders, reports of the number of people killed changed through the night.

In 2014, five people were killed and another 12 injured when a cooking gas canister exploded in an apartment building in Acre in the north. That explosion brought down part of the three-story building and at least 10 people were trapped beneath the rubble. In that incident, police concluded that the explosion was set off deliberately, and two men were charged with murder.