Three young children died of smoke inhalation in a fire at their home on Thursday morning in the Bedouin town of Hura in the south of Israel.
The siblings from the Abu Sbeit family — Abrar, 1, Khaled, 3, and Lilah, 4 — apparently suffocated, with some assessments suggesting the blaze could have been sparked by a coal heater while the children slept.
Television reports on Thursday night, however, said officials believe the children were playing with a lighter and accidentally set a couch on fire.
According to family members, it took 10 minutes for the children to be rescued.
The Israel Fire and Rescue Services said it was not called in until after the blaze was extinguished.
The children were brought to a local medical clinic, then transferred to Beersheba’s Soroka Medical Center. Doctors at the hospital declared the deaths of all three.
The head of the Hura Local Council, Habis Al-Atauna, told the Kan public broadcaster that fires were frequent in the winter due to the absence of proper utilities for homes in the area.
“The father and mother are young parents, I think they have no more children. Their situation is very difficult.” Al-Atauna said.
“These are not houses, they are huts. There is no infrastructure or roads. There is no organized electricity in the houses. People have lived in the locality for more than 20 years in refugee camp conditions. They do not receive [basic] services,” he said.
According to data from the B’Terem child safety organization, an average of 52 children are taken to the hospital every year due to injuries from heaters. In 2010-2020, 15 children died as a result of unsafe heaters, including four from gas poisoning, Channel 12 news reported.