JERUSALEM - Israel barred a group of Palestinian firefighters who helped battle the country's worst wildfire from attending a ceremony in their honor Tuesday, the latest embarrassments over Israel's handling of the blaze.
Eleven Palestinians were invited to attend the event in northern Israel, where the fire raged earlier this month. Israeli Arab lawmaker Ahmad Tibi, one of the event's organizers, said the fete was called off when three of the Palestinians were refused entry.
Palestinian fire chief Ahmed Rizek said his permit arrived too late for him to attend. Palestinians need permits to enter Israel from the West Bank.
But the Israeli military said the slight was unintentional.
"The delay in handing out the permits occurred because of a technical error in coordination between the two sides," a military spokesman, Maj. Guy Inbar, said, adding that he "regretted the incident."
By Tuesday evening, all permits were granted, the military said, but it was too late for the ceremony. Tibi said he was going to consult with the firefighters on whether to reschedule the event.
Tuesday's ceremony was set to take place in Usfiya, an Israeli Arab town near to where the blaze erupted, and the Palestinian firefighters were to be awarded certificates at the event.
About 20 Palestinian firefighters had joined the international effort against the blaze that killed 43 people as it swept through the Carmel forest in Israel's north, the biggest forest fire Israel has ever seen.
Israelis have harshly criticized their own government because their fire service was unprepared to extinguish the fire and had to appeal to other countries to assist in putting out the flames.
Rizek, the fire chief, last week had attended a ceremony in Jerusalem at the official residence of Israel's president in honor of foreign firefighters who helped put out the blaze.