Angry crowd forces Israeli PM to halt speech
The Associated Press
Wednesday, January 5, 2011; 4:27 PM
JERUSALEM -- Angry relatives of 42 Israelis killed in a huge
forest fire last month forced Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to
stop his speech Wednesday at a ceremony honoring the dead.
Family members shouted that he should be held responsible for the
handling of the disaster response. Others directed their anger at
Interior Minister Eli Yishai, who was escorted out of the hall.
Firefighting services are part of his ministry.
Israel's firefighting services were unprepared for the huge fire,
which destroyed swaths of forest in Israel's north. Since Israel
lacked any suitable aircraft, Netanyahu had to appeal for help
from abroad. Several nations, including the United States, sent
firefighting planes that helped douse the blaze after four days.
During Wednesday's disturbance, bodyguards rushed toward the
podium and formed a line to keep people away from Netanyahu.
Relatives yelled at him to resign and called the ceremony a
disgrace. They objected to his attempt to identify with their
personal pain without taking responsibility for the tragedy.
"We will find out the truth. We will not rest until we find out
the truth," shouted one man from the crowd.
Netanyahu had to stop talking for several minutes while security
officers restored order.
Among those who heckled Netanyahu was Danny Rosen, the partner of
Israel's highest-ranking female police officer, Ahuva Tomer, the
police chief of the northern city of Haifa. She was killed when
flames enveloped a bus she was accompanying. It was carrying
prison service workers toward a jail, where they were sent to
The flames reached the outskirts of Haifa, Israel's third-largest
Netanyahu has attended a number of functions and meetings of
officials in the aftermath of the fire, by far the largest forest
fire in Israel's history.