A minister in the Palestinian Authority government has made claims that Israel was too slow in evacuating the prisoners in the Damon prison on the day of the outbreak of the Carmel forest fire, the Palestinian Media Watch (PMW) website reported.

According to the report, PA Deputy Minister of Prisoners, Ziyad Abu Ein (a member of the Fatah government headed by PA President Mahmoud Abbas), said in a television interview the very day of the fire that Israel was not concerned about saving the lives of the Arab prisoners and was being intentionally slow in moving them away from the fire zone. All of the prisoners were saved.

PMW presented the transcript of the broadcast which aired on PATV. The host asks Abu Ein: “Do you have information about the response speed of the Israeli Prison Service in transferring the female prisoners from the Israeli prison, or did they take their time and create a lag?”

Abu Ein responds by saying that IPS indeed created a lag, causing the Arab prisoners to be endangered. He adds that “had there not been Israeli criminals or Jewish prisoners in this particular prison, it would have been even slower... “

Abu Ein then goes on to say that had the fire occurred in the Negev, Nafha or Be'er Sheva prisons, in which there are only Arab security prisoners, the danger would have been even greater.

“The presence of hundreds of Israeli prisoners in this prison [Damon] spurred the ending [of the fire] and the evacuation of the prisoners. But still it was very slow,” claimed Abu Ein.

What Abu Ein neglected to mention in the interview is the fact that IPS sent a bus carrying cadets for the purpose of assisting in evacuating the prisoners in the Damon prison to safety from the fire. The bus was caught in the fire, which began spreading at great speed, with no chance of getting out. 36 of the cadets who were on the bus burned to death.

In addition to the cadets, four other people, including three senior police officers, among them Haifa Commander Ahuva Tomer, were caught in the flames and were killed while trying to rescue the cadets on the bus.

The fire also claimed the life of 16-year-old Elad Riven, a volunteer firefighter who put his own life in danger in order to assist the cadets who were trapped on the bus. PMW pointed out that Abu Ein's appearance on PATV took place after the tragedy of the bus was announced.