Cousin of family slain in alleged settler attack trapped under collapsed garage
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Cousin of family slain in alleged settler attack trapped under collapsed garage

Relatives holding out hope that Mohammad Dawabsha, one of three workers still trapped beneath rubble in Tel Aviv, will be pulled out alive

Dov Lieber is The Times of Israel's Arab affairs correspondent.

Israeli rescue workers at the site where a building collapsed in Tel Aviv's Ramat Hahayal neighborhood, September 6, 2016. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
Israeli rescue workers at the site where a building collapsed in Tel Aviv's Ramat Hahayal neighborhood, September 6, 2016. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

A cousin of 6-year-old Palestinian Ahmed Dawabsha, whose mother, father and baby brother were killed last year in an arson attack by suspected Jewish terrorists, is among those trapped in the rubble of a collapsed four-story parking garage in Tel Aviv.

Nasser Dawasbha, an uncle of Ahmed, told the Times of Israel over the phone that 28-year-old Mohammad Dawabsha — a cousin of Ahmed — is one of three workers missing and believed trapped under the building.

“I am in communication with Muhammad’s family to see what will happen with him,” Dawabsha said.

Rescue efforts were continuing for a second straight night Tuesday to find and free the remainign workers buried under the collapsed building. At least three people were killed and over 20 injured in the catastrophe.

Rescuers managed to pull five people out of the rubble alive on Monday, but officials say hopes for pulling out those remaining alive is fading rapidly.

“The situation is very difficult. There is a great fear. We are waiting to hear any updates on the situation,” said Dawabsha, who lives in Duma, the West Bank town where the July firebombing took place and where Muhammad’s family also lives.

Ahmed Dawabsha, the sole survivor of a West Bank arson attack in Duma village, is carried by his grandfather Hussein at the Tel HaShomer Hospital in Ramat Gan, Israel on Friday, July 22, 2016 (AP Photo/Tsafrir Abayov)
Ahmed Dawabsha, the sole survivor of a West Bank arson attack in Duma village, is carried by his grandfather Hussein at the Tel HaShomer Hospital in Ramat Gan, Israel on Friday, July 22, 2016 (AP Photo/Tsafrir Abayov)

Mohammad Dawabsha is married and a father to two children, according to Israeli news site Walla.

Relatives in Duma described the missing worker as “a good man that only wanted to work and bring home food to his family,” Walla reported.

The family said they are “praying he’ll come back soon, whole and healthy.”

Search and rescue workers pulled the body of a victim from the rubble of a parking garage in Tel Aviv on Tuesday afternoon, over 24 hours after the structure collapsed, killing at least three people.

Nasser Dawabsha, uncle of slain baby Ali Dawabsha, speaks at a rally in Tel Aviv on Saturday, August 1 2015. (Screen capture Ynet)
Nasser Dawabsha, uncle of slain baby Ali Dawabsha, speaks at a rally in Tel Aviv on Saturday, August 1 2015. (Screen capture Ynet)

Dawabsha is one of several Palestinian construction workers who were at the site in north Tel Aviv when it suddenly caved in Monday morning.

Police identified one fatality as Ahd Marouf al-Hajj, 34, a Palestinian from the town of Beit Rima in the West Bank. Another was a 28-year-old Ukrainian national, according to police.

The identities of third victim and the other two workers trapped in the rubble, have not been released.

As of Tuesday afternoon, another three people were still missing – Mohammad Dawabsha among them – and soldiers from the IDF Home Front Command’s search and rescue units were working around the clock to locate and free the trapped construction workers from the wreckage of the four-story structure.

Rescue workers were still holding out hope Tuesday, noting that people can and have been found alive 24 hours after building collapses, Maj. Dan Diamant of the Home Front Command told The Times of Israel on the scene of the disaster site.

The Palestinian Authority labor minister said Monday that he holds Israeli authorities responsible for a spate of fatal incidents involving Palestinian construction workers in Israel.

Rescue workers toil to find survivors in the ruins of a parking garage a day after it collapsed in Tel Aviv, September 6, 2016 (Miriam Alster FLASH90)
Rescue workers toil to find survivors in the ruins of a parking garage a day after it collapsed in Tel Aviv, September 6, 2016 (Miriam Alster FLASH90)

Mamoun Abu Shahla said his ministry is following developments with “great interest and worry” after the collapse on Monday of a parking garage under construction in Tel Aviv, the official PA news site Wafa reported.

Most construction workers in Israel are Arab-Israelis, Palestinians or foreign nationals.

The rate of worker deaths in Israel is among the highest in the West, and double that of the European Union average.

MK Ayman Odeh (Joint List) said thirty-two people have died in construction site accidents since the beginning of the year.

In 2015, 54 laborers died in work accidents — 34 of whom were working on construction sites — and over 50,000 workers were injured. Most of the construction workers, 21 of the 34 who died, fell to their deaths.

Judah Ari Gross contributed to this report.

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