Children die in West Bank bus crash


AT LEAST seven Palestinian children and a teacher were killed when a truck lost control in stormy weather and slammed into a school bus, setting the vehicle on fire.

The bus was packed with about 50 children aged four to six from Anata near Jerusalem on a day trip to a theme park in the nearby West Bank city of Ramallah. Due to heavy rain and treacherous road conditions, it was decided to return to Jerusalem. A truck skidded and hit the bus in the opposite lane while it was making its way back to Jerusalem.

The bus overturned and caught fire.

Dubi Weisenshtern, a volunteer with Israel’s ZAKA rescue service, told the Jerusalem Postthe bus was “completely destroyed” and littered with children’s shoes and backpacks.

“Anyone who is alive from that accident – it’s a miracle,” he said. “I don’t understand how people got out of there alive.” About 40 children were injured, with many suffering serious burns.

Israeli and Palestinian ambulance crews co-operated to evacuate the dead and injured to Israeli hospitals in Jerusalem and Palestinian hospitals in Ramallah.

The truck driver, an Israeli Arab, was recovering in a Jerusalem hospital after suffering moderate injuries. He will be questioned by police when he recovers.

Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas declared three days of mourning, ordering flags to be flown at half-mast.

“Authorities will take all necessary measures to take care of the injured and provide the families of victims all they need. We consider the victims martyrs of the Palestinian people,” he said.

Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu and President Shimon Peres offered their condolences and pledged to give any aid necessary to the Palestinian Authority.

Filippo Grandi, the commissioner-general of UNRWA, the UN’s Palestine refugee agency, said in a statement he was “deeply saddened” by the tragedy.

Some 2,000 mourners last night attended the funeral of a young girl from Anata, the first of the crash victims to be buried.