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      Over 5,000 Attend Funeral for Akko Gas Explosion Victims

      Jews, Arabs unite at Akko gas explosion victims' funeral; investigations intensify into the possibility of foul play.
      By Tova Dvorin
      First Publish: 2/18/2014, 11:37 AM

      Rescue workers search for survivors at the site of Akko gas explosion
      Rescue workers search for survivors at the site of Akko gas explosion
      Flash 90

      Over 5,000 people attended the Monday funeral of the families killed in Sunday's gas explosion in the northern Israeli city of Akko, according to Walla!

      The procession began outside the Al-Jazzar mosque in the city's Old City neighborhood, where the local Mufti gave a eulogy. Former MK Abbas Zakour (United Arab List) was also present at the ceremony. 

      "All of the residents of Akko - both Jews and Arabs - have united today in mourning over this terrible tragedy," Zakour stated. He added that several of the residents - not only medical rescue teams - joined lifesaving efforts immediately after the explosion. "We hope that the city never sees another incident like this." he added. 

      Sunday's gas explosion killed five people: 43-year-old Muhammed Bader and his wife Hanan (39); Ra'eek Sarhan (40) and wife Najah (35), along with their eight-year-old son Hamed. Twelve people were also injured in the blast. Three of the injured have been released from hospital so far, according to Dr. Misad Barhom, the director of Nahariya Medical Center.  

      An investigation into the exact cause of the incident - whether it was an accident or foul play - is ongoing. Officials have stated that a dispute between neighbors over a cell phone tower may have precipitated the tragedy.

      According to Akko mayor Shimon Lankri, the problem is not new. 

      "We received several complaints a few years back from the city's residents [over the towers]," he admitted. "At least 37 private cell phone antennae were erected on private residences without permits. [Since then,] the city has signed contract with the three major cell phone providers and built antennae far from the residential areas - which the residents agreed to, by the way." 

      Businesses and schools in the Old City were closed for the funeral Monday, which was declared a day of mourning in the city. "We're still in shock," the brother of one of the deceased told Walla!. "This tragedy wiped out an entire family." 

      "But this, everyone participating here, warms my heart," a family member noted. "Everyone shares our sorrow. The entire neighborhood did not go to work today in order to be with us." 

      The Akko municipality officially closed off the Old city neighborhood Monday morning for safety precautions; officials are currently inspecting the area to determine if older apartments are in danger of collapsing due to aftershocks from the blast. A youth hostel has also been opened to house families displaced while the investigation continues.