World News

Kin of Israel fire dead snub Netanyahu at memorial

BEIT OREN, Israel (Reuters) - Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s memorial speech for those killed in Israel’s worst-ever wildfire was disrupted on Wednesday when bereaved relatives shouted for his interior minister’s ouster.

Bodyguards briefly sheltered Netanyahu as a few dozen hecklers surged toward him and others stormed out of the event at Beit Oren, a kibbutz at the epicenter of last month’s Carmel forest blaze in which 44 people, mostly rescue personnel, died.

Interior Minister Eli Yishai, who as the official responsible for Israel’s fire services bore the brunt of public outrage at the disaster, left the hall after the first outbursts against him. Netanyahu then resumed his speech.

“My heart is with you,” he said. “I understand the pain.”

The upset was a fresh public rebuke for Netanyahu’s rightist coalition government, in which Yishai’s Shas, a party run by rabbis, is junior partner. Many secular Israelis have long opposed Shas policies on welfare and other core social issues.

But the broad-based government has weathered such domestic censure as well as criticism from world powers trying to break a deadlock in Israeli-Palestinian peace talks that followed Netanyahu’s refusal to renew a freeze on West Bank settlements.

Writing by Dan Williams; Editing by Noah Barkin