The family of a Palestinian killed in Ashkelon by a rocket fired from the Gaza Strip last year has sued Israel for tens of millions of shekels, saying the time it took rescue workers to find his body led to his death, Israeli television reported Thursday.
Mahmoud Abu Asabeh, a 48-year-old from the West Bank city of Halhul, was in Israel on a work permit when the building in Ashkelon he was staying at was struck by a rocket during a major flare-up in November between the Israeli military and Gaza-based terror groups.
Firefighters who searched the building evacuated several wounded people but did not find Abu Asabeh or a Palestinian woman who also lived there and was seriously injured by the rocket. The two were only found by a local man over an hour after the impact.
According to Hadashot TV news, Abu Asabeh’s relatives say his death was due to rescuers carrying out a quick search of the building and not continuing to look despite neighbors telling them people remained trapped underneath the rubble, and are therefore suing the state and rescue services for NIS 10 million (approximately $2.7 million).
“I say this is a screw-up by the fire service. They could’ve saved him but now they won’t speak with us,” Abu Asabeh’s brother Mazen told the network.
“Our life was destroyed,” continued Mazen Abu Asabeh, speaking from the damaged building in Ashkelon. “Why didn’t they do their work like they were supposed to? How can it be that you enter a building that a rocket fell on and leave within five minutes?”
Relatives said they had not been contacted by any official body regarding Mahmoud’s death and that under Israeli law regarding terror victims they are entitled to compensation in light of the years he spent working in Israel.
“This is criminal negligence by the fire department that in effect received a report, arrived at the scene, did the most minimal inspection and for whatever reason decided to leave, even though residents were insisting that there were still injured people inside the building,” Mohammed Raheel, a lawyer for the family, told Hadashot.
Following Abu Asabeh’s death, the Jewish Agency said it was planning to send support to Mahmoud’s family from its Fund for the Victims of Terror. They were to be the first non-Israelis to receive money from the agency’s fund “in recent years,” a spokesman for Chairman Isaac Herzog said.
Asked if they would accept the funds, family members said at the time they would, but noted that the Jewish Agency had not contacted them yet.
Abu Asabeh was the only fatality in Israel during the exchange of fire in November, which saw the largest number of rockets fired at Israeli territory since the 2014 Gaza war.
Adam Rasgon contributed to this report.