The lifeless bodies of two Palestinian children were found Friday as rain and flooding continued to take a devastating toll in the West Bank and Israel, where a group of ten young people died after being caught in a flash flood in the south.
The two Palestinian children were found in a reservoir that flooded in the El Fuwar refugee camp south of Hebron. The two were identified as Yazen Mohammad Asrahana, 10, and Ahmed Samich Asrahana, 9.
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The two went missing on Thursday, but were found only today. The two were likely playing near the makeshift reservoir – which serves as a watering tank for local farms – when rain and flooding pushed them inside.
Meanwhile, the death toll from flash floods that hit a group of teenage hikers in southern Israel Thursday rose from nine to 10 after a body found overnight was identified as the last missing teen Friday morning.
Flash floods in Israel
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The ten victims, nine girls and one boy of around 18 years old, were killed when they were swept away by flash floods during a hike at Nahal Tsafit, south of the Dead Sea. The trip was part of a pre-army program.
Meanwhile, overnight Friday, an overturned truck was found near Ein Tamar, with no driver in it. A body was found nearby, but officials it was not the truck driver. Due to the fact that the area has seen flooding, possibly dislodging landmines following heavy rain, searches for the driver are proceeding carefully after a short lull.
Police have also begun making arrests in their investigation into the death of the young Israelis, and have taken members of the staff of the program which took them on the trip. After the staff members were questioned, two were arrested and a third was released to house arrest.
>> Nine teenagers killed after flash floods hit Israel’s south ■ Israel opens investigation ■ Authorities name nine teenage victims ■ ‘We’re going to die’: Text messages reveal teenage flood victim feared for her life on hike >>
On Wednesday, two Palestinian teenagers died in flash floods.
A 16-old-year died after being swept away by floods in the Mamshit Stream in the southern Negev. He was swept away near his home in a Bedouin encampment a few hundred meters from the Mamshit National Park. He was found about 3 kilometers further down the stream in critical condition by a relative, who called in the rescue unit. He was evacuated by an Air Force helicopter but died on the way to the hospital.
A 17-year-old Palestinian girl died in the desert hills east of Bethlehem in the West Bank. She was herding sheep and was swept away by the flood.
‘We’re gonna die’
Authorities have named nine of the 10 victims as Ella Or, from the settlement of Ma’ale Adumim; Gali Belali, from the central city of Givatayim; Agam Levi, from Moshav Herut in central Israel; Shani Samir, from the central town of Shoham; Adi Ra’anan, from the coastal community of Mikhmoret; Yael Sadan and Maayan Barhum from Jerusalem; Romi Cohen, from Moshav Maor in the north and Tzur Alfi, from the central town of Mazkeret Batya. The communities are working to create an extensive support network for families and friends coping with the loss of their loved ones.
Israel Police has opened an investigation into the deaths, with the focus expected to be on the organizers of the program on suspicion of death by negligence.
Text messages show that one of the girls who was killed told friends she was worried for her safety on the hike, the Israel Television News Company reported. "I can’t believe I’m actually going hiking in weather like this. It doesn’t make sense to go to a place that’s completely flooded. It’s tempting fate. We’re going to die – I’m serious," she wrote to her friends on the messaging application WhatsApp a day before the trip.
All of the agencies responsible for collecting rainfall and flooding information in the south issued rather clear warnings on Wednesday and Thursday regarding the risk of flooding in the area where the group was hiking near the Tzafit stream. The Israel Meteorological Service also issued a warning on the risk of flooding in the Dead Sea region, the southern Judean Desert and the Arava. It should be noted that even relatively small quantities of rainfall in the desert can cause powerful flood waters.
"Israel grieves the promising young lives that were cut off by this tragedy in the Arava," Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in response to the news. "We embrace the families with grief and pray for the speedy recovery of the wounded."
President Reuven Rivlin wrote about the flood on Twitter, saying "Our thoughts and prayers go to our brothers, children, our loved ones, and those in danger. We’re following the situation in the south closely and are sending a warm embrace to the effected families. We will strengthen and lend help to the forces who are currently working to rescue, find and treat those injured. I ask all to please follow their instructions."