JERUSALEM (AFP) – Three people have been arrested in Israel in connection with the deaths of 10 young hikers in flash floods during a programme to prepare them for military service, police said Friday.
The ten students, mostly aged 17 and 18, were caught up in floods while hiking in the Arabah desert in southern Israel following exceptionally heavy rainfall.
They were part of a group of around 25 hikers taking part in the training.
“Police questioned three staff members from the academy that organised the trip,” Micky Rosenfeld said in a statement.
Two remain in detention and the third is under house arrest, he added.
The hike was organised by a Tel Aviv-based institute that offers a one-year programme for young people wishing to postpone their military service, compulsory in Israel, in order to strengthen themselves mentally and physically.
The hikers were taking a break in the middle of the Nahal Tzafit Gorge when they were taken surprise by the rains, Israeli media reported.
Flash floods can turn the picturesque gorge into an instant death trap, they said. Some speculated that organisers may have ignored weather warnings.
Israeli media on Friday morning broadcast photos of the ten killed, nine girls and a boy, most of whose funerals are expected during the day.
The arid Arabah desert is prone to flash floods.
In Whatsapp communications before the hike, one of the teens warned conditions were dangerous.
“I cannot believe I’m going on a trip in such weather,” said the teen, who later died.
“It doesn’t make sense for us to go to a place where everything is flooding. It’s tempting fate — we’re going to die.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu posted his condolences to the families on his Facebook page.
Separately police in the area were searching for the missing driver of a truck that was caught in the floods after a road accident.
On Wednesday a Bedouin teenager died in southern Israel, while east of Bethlehem in the occupied West Bank, a 17-year-old Palestinian girl was found dead after being swept away.