Israel rabbi: Deadly parking garage collapse due to Shabbat desecration

An Israeli rabbi said the collapse of a parking garage under construction in Tel Aviv that killed six was due to lack of Sabbath observance.

Rabbi Meir Mazuz, the head of the Tunisian Jewish community in Israel, made the comments during a lecture he delivered Saturday night in Bnei Brak, Ynet reported.

“What happened, the disaster this week — nothing like this ever happens. There are engineers, there are smart people, there are inspectors — and dozens of people are buried underground. It all comes because they disrespect Shabbat,” he said, according to Ynet.

“Running away from Shabbat is the largest mistake in the world … prime ministers need to understand that the Shabbat will not forgive … the Almighty gave us a good gift, the Shabbat … you must not harm the Shabbat.”

His remarks came following a government crisis over Saturday repairs to Israel’s railroad.

Haredi Orthodox political parties had called for a halt to the work and threatened to bolt the ruling coalition if it was not cancelled, which could have toppled the government.

The rabbi’s remarks reportedly were directed at state-sponsored work, not individual observance.

He also blamed the pre-launch explosion of Israel’s Amos 6 satellite on Shabbat desecration. The launch was scheduled for Shabbat. He said a previous Amos satellite was deployed successfully because it had not been launched on Shabbat.

Mazuz is the spiritual leader of the Yachad party, founded by former Sephardic Orthodox Shas Party leader Eli Yishai. The party did not receive enough votes in the last election to gain any seats in the Knesset.

Hours before Mazuz spoke, search and rescue workers removed the sixth and last body from the rubble of the collapsed garage.

Three of the dead workers have been named as: Oleg Yakubov, 60, of Tel Aviv; Dennis Dyachenko, 28, a foreign worker from Ukraine, and Ihad Ajhaj, 34, a West Bank Palestinian.

A fourth worker has been identified as Muhammad Dawabsheh, 29, from Duma in the West Bank. He is a relative of the family members who were killed in a July 2015 firebomb attack on their home allegedly by right-wing Jewish extremists.

Death toll in Tel Aviv construction site collapse rises to 4

The body of a worker was pulled from the rubble of the collapse of a four-level underground parking structure under construction in Tel Aviv, bringing the death toll to four.

The third and fourth bodies were located several hours apart on Tuesday afternoon.

Three other workers, Israeli and Palestinian, are believed to still be trapped under the rubble more than 24 hours after the collapse at the building site late Monday morning. At least 20 people were injured in the accident.

One of the dead has been identified as a Ukrainian worker.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited the site late Monday night, eschewing the FIFA 2018 World Cup qualifying soccer match between Israel and Italy being held in Jerusalem. The site was swarming with search-and-rescue personnel.

“I am constantly monitoring the rescue efforts at the disaster site in Tel Aviv,” Netanyahu said Tuesday morning as he boarded a flight for a two-day state visit in the Netherlands, adding that he was “deeply impressed by the work of the rescue units led by the GOC Home Front Command.”

“The people are doing exceptional work on the highest professional level to be found anywhere in the world,” he said. “There are still people trapped; we are making every effort and are not giving up on anyone. We will reach them all.”

Dudi Mizrahi, the head of the Israeli army’s Home Front Command Search and Rescue Unit, said Monday evening that the search-and-rescue operation could go on for days. He said “the chances of finding anyone alive” were less likely with each passing hour, according to The Times of Israel.

Some 300 Israeli army search-and-rescue personnel have been involved in the search, as well as 160 rescue workers from the fire department. A K-9 unit also is on the scene to assist in locating the missing workers.

Police have placed a gag order on details of the investigation into what caused the collapse, according to Haaretz, which reported that a number of serious safety accidents have occurred in recent months at sites under construction by Danya Cebus, the company operating the site where Monday’s collapse occurred. An accident three months ago occurred at the same site, according to Haaretz.

New footage of 9/11 shows bird’s-eye-view of towers collapsing [VIDEO]

New footage documenting the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center in New York were released on Monday, featuring a 17-minute video filmed by an NYPD officer circling the collapsing towers in a helicopter.

According to the American blog The Gothamist, the footage was sent anonymously to the website Cryptome, after it was held up by the National Institute of Standards and Technology.

The video shows the first tower imploding upon itself as the NYPD officers shouted “it’s gone, the whole tower, its gone! Holy crap!”, followed by the second tower tumbling into an enormous black cloud of smoke and ash over the city.


P.A. Under Siege?

Six Israeli defense officials are debating whether the government should take steps to prevent the collapse of Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat’s regime. The Israeli daily Ma’ariv reported that officials are warning that the collapse of the Palestinian Authority could lead to chaos in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

However, the Israeli daily Ha’aretz cited Defense Ministry sources who say Arafat’s “SOS signals” appear to be part of a familiar strategy — portraying himself as weak to avoid having to carry out his obligations under peace deals and cease-fires, such as his responsibility to subdue Palestinian militants.

A Defense Ministry report presented to the government states that “the panicked signals of distress” that Arafat is sending are meant “to expedite the deployment of monitors to the region,” according to Ha’aretz. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon appeared to agree, saying that “the claim that Arafat does not control the situation on the ground is unfounded,” according to Ha’aretz.

Ma’ariv, however, cited government officials who feel that Israel’s policy of targeting wanted Palestinians has placed great strain on Arafat, who fears he may also be singled out.

The paper said this was one of the reasons for Defense Minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer’s public assurance that Israel does not have its sights set on Arafat. Arafat also wrote to U.S. officials asking them to press Israel to stop its policy of targeting suspected Palestinian militants.

Sharon and his advisers say the policy — which they call “active self-defense” — is justified because it targets Palestinian militants before they can strike innocent Israeli civilians.

According to a Palestinian minister, the Palestinian Authority is losing its influence over Hamas and the Islamic Jihad movements because of the Israeli policy. Ziad Abu Ziad told Israel Radio that Israel’s policy is radicalizing the Palestinian street.

When Israel recently publicized the names of seven alleged terrorists it said the Palestinian Authority has refused to arrest, many took it as a signal that these seven were next on Israel’s list for “targeted killings,” — a policy that much of the world condemns simply as “assassination.”

Wedding Hall Disaster

Israel has set up a state commission of inquiry into building safety after 23 people were killed and hundreds injured when a wedding hall collapsed last week.

The May 24 collapse at the Versailles wedding hall in Jerusalem’s Talpiot neighborhood has spurred a public outcry over what are considered widespread problems of corner-cutting by contractors and lax enforcement of building codes by local authorities.

The collapse also heightened fears that poor construction practices could make many buildings disaster prone — all the more so because Israel is located in an earthquake zone.

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said those guilty of negligence must be brought to justice.

Israelis “pay a heavy and needless price as a result of a disregard for law and order,” he said at a joint news conference with Jerusalem Mayor Ehud Olmert.

The commission will address construction problems in general, not the Versailles hall collapse specifically.

A government statement issued Tuesday said the commission will examine the “full range of professional and legal questions related to the safety of buildings and places designed for public use.”

In what was considered Israel’s worst civilian disaster, 23 people were killed and more than 200 injured last week when the dance floor collapsed beneath the feet of wedding guests, plunging them three stories in a cloud of broken concrete and twisted steel.

One of the dead was a 3-year-old boy. Rescuers said they found the bodies of an entire family sitting around a party table smashed in the wreckage.

The bride and groom, Keren and Assaf Dror, were injured and received adjoining hospital beds.

A video of the collapse showed well-dressed partygoers dancing under colored lights when the floor gave way beneath them.

Police detained at 11 people for questioning — including the owners of the hall, engineers and building contractors — following the disaster.

Among those held by police was the inventor of a construction method used in the wedding hall and in many other buildings built in Israel during the 1980s.

According to reports, more than 6,500 structures in Israel were built using the cheaper Pal-Kal method, which uses thinner sections of concrete than usual during construction. The building method was banned in 1996 because of safety concerns.

An initial inquiry indicated that recent renovations at the wedding hall — including the removal of supporting walls and beams, as well as the use of the Pal-Kal construction method — could have contributed to the building’s collapse.

Police also are investigating possible allegations of lax enforcement of building codes by municipal officials, including possible corruption.

Some of those detained were suspected of trying to remove municipal files regarding the wedding hall before police nabbed them.

Citing the sensitivity and complexity of the case, Israel’s police commissioner transferred the investigation from the Jerusalem police to the national fraud squad.

In the wake of the collapse, a special hotline set up by the Israel Building Association was flooded with calls from worried Israelis.

Meanwhile, local officials have ordered inspections of buildings designated for public use.

Haifa’s mayor, Amram Mitzna, on Tuesday ordered a banquet hall closed after city inspectors concluded that renovation work on the building had raised the risk of collapse.