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Three arrested after 10 young Israelis killed in flash floods

Jerusalem (AFP) – Three people were arrested in Israel in connection with the death of 10 young flash flood hikers during a program to prepare them for military service, police said Friday.

The ten students, mostly aged 17 and 18, were trapped in the floods while walking in the Arabah desert in southern Israel after exceptionally heavy rains.

They were part of a group of about 25 hikers who participated in the training.

"The police questioned three officials of the academy who organized the trip," Micky Rosenfeld said in a statement.

Two remain in custody and the third is under house arrest, he added.

The walk was organized by an institute based in Tel Aviv that offers a one-year program for young people who wish to postpone their military service, mandatory in Israel, to strengthen themselves mentally and physically.

The hikers were taking a break in the middle of the Nahal Tzafit gorge when the Israeli press reported that it surprised the rains

. Flash floods can turn the picturesque gorge into a deadly snare trap, they said. Some speculated that organizers may have ignored climate warnings.

Israeli media released photos of the ten dead, nine girls and a boy on Friday morning, most of whose funerals are expected during the day.

The arid desert of Arabah is prone to overflow the floods.

In WhatsApp communications before the walk, one of the teens noticed that the conditions were dangerous.

"I can not believe I'm going to take a trip with that climate," said the teenager, who later died.

"It does not make sense to go to a place where everything is flooded, it's a tempting destination: we're going to die."

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sent his condolences to the families on his Facebook page.

Separately, the police in the area were looking for the missing driver of a truck that was caught in the flooding after a traffic 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 dragged.

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