An Israeli-Arab driver smashed his truck into a Palestinian school bus north of
the capital on Thursday morning, killing at least seven children and a teacher,
Palestinian sources said.
Other reports put the death toll at up to 10,
but this could not be verified at press time.
An additional 36 children
were injured when the bus overturned and caught fire, emergency officials said.
Not all of the casualties were identified by Thursday evening.
very little time to escape the bus from the moment of impact. A fire broke out
very soon afterward,” police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld told The Jerusalem Post
at the scene.
“The bus is completely burned-out on the
Police suspect the wet road conditions between the Adam
checkpoint and Kalandiya caused the truck to swerve into the oncoming traffic,
striking the bus head on.
The driver, who is in an Israeli hospital, is
to be questioned by police after receiving treatment.
Authority President Mahmoud Abbas announced three days of mourning, the
traditional Muslim mourning period, in memory of the children who
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, who was visiting Cyprus, offered
the PA ”any aid requested.”
President Shimon Peres telephoned Abbas to
convey his condolences.
Peres asked the Palestinian leader to tell the
grieving families that his thoughts were with them in their time of anguish, and
assured Abbas that Israel would provide the best possible medical care to those
of the injured who had been taken to Israeli hospitals.
The bus had set
out from a Palestinian school in Anata northeast of Jerusalem to the Ramallah
area, for a day trip, carrying around 60 children.
It turned around and
headed back because of dangerous weather conditions.
It was struck by the
truck en route to east Jerusalem. Israeli and Palestinian emergency responders
arrived and began evacuating the injured to Israeli and Palestinian
The bus was “completely destroyed” and littered with
children’s shoes and backpacks, Dubi Weisenshtern, a volunteer with the ZAKA
rescue and recovery organization, told the Post.
“Anyone who is alive
from that accident – it’s a miracle,” he said.
“I don’t understand how
people got out of there alive.”
Weisenshtern added that it was also a
miracle that no children were trapped inside or underneath the bus.
Zion Oring, the head of ZAKA’s Jerusalem division, said it took emergency crews
several minutes to determine the exact site of the accident, since it was
located in PA territory.
“I have been at a number of difficult events,
but when you are talking about children the shock is that much harder,” he
The accident took place just after 9 a.m. at the Adam Square, a
major intersection north of Jerusalem between highway 60 and highway
Most of the injured children were taken to Ramallah area
Three injured children arrived by ambulance at Hadassah
University Medical Center on Jerusalem’s Mount Scopus. In light of the serious
burns they had suffered, they were transferred to the trauma unit at Hadassah’s
Ein Kerem campus while attached to respirators and accompanied by a
pediatricians and anesthesiologists.
The injured children received
initial treatment on site by medics from United Hatzalah and then were taken by
Red Crescent and Magen David Adom ambulances to hospitals.
Hadassah hospitals had been alerted about the accident and so had reinforced
their emergency teams. General surgeons, pediatric surgeons, trauma and plastic
surgery experts, lung specialists and others were called in.
Two of the
seriously injured reached the pediatric intensive care unit but were not
immediately identified. The third, suffering from burns on a quarter of her
body, was identified by her parents. Three other children, aged four and five,
were admitted to the Mount Scopus hospital with light injuries.
driver was also taken to the Mount Scopus campus suffering from trauma and
The Hadassah Medical Organization set up a special phone line
to help relatives find their children; the center was manned by Arabic-speaking
The hospitals were also in contact with the Ramallah
hospital, where other injured were admitted, to help prepare a list of those
In a press conference at the Palestine Medical Complex, PA Health
Minister Fathi Abu Mughli said his ministry would not release the victims’ names
until it completed identifying them.
“The bodies are severely burned,
which makes it harder to identify them, we are running DNA tests,” he
Abu Mughli blamed the Israeli authorities for some of the deaths.
“The IDF didn’t intervene the minute the accident took place. If it did, it
could have saved some lives,” he said.
He added, “I personally complained
to the Israeli side; the accident took place in area C [where Israel has both
security and civilian control], and we have limited movement there.”
called on the world to “end the occupation so we can serve our people
Anata Mayor Ibrahim al-Rifai told the Post that the road where
the accident took place is very dangerous. It is a three-lane road and there is
no barrier separating opposing traffic. “There is a safer road that goes into
Ramallah through the Beit El settlement.
However, Palestinians are not
allowed to use it, only some VIPs,” he added.
Rifai also said that the
IDF prevented some Palestinians from helping the burning children escape the bus
before the ambulance arrived.
A senior army source dismissed claims by
Palestinian officials that soldiers prevented Palestinian rescue services from
reaching the accident scene. The source said the military asked both Israeli and
Palestinian police to come, and that paramedics directed emergency responders to
the bus. The source added that within 30 minutes all of the wounded had been
evacuated to hospitals and said that the IDF’s civil administration made every
effort to assist the emergency services.
Deputy Health Minister Ya’acov
Litzman rejected the statement by the Palestinian health minister who claimed
that Israel “did not adequately treat injured from the bus accident.” Litzman
declared that the statement was a “lie and incitement and totally out of
Medical and rescue teams came immediately to the accident site
and provided first aid without hesitation, he said. Some of the injured are
being treated “in our best Israeli hospitals,” Litzman said. “In matters of
human life, there are no borders and no politics.”
MK Zevulun Orlev,
chairman of the Knesset Committee on the Rights of the Child, announced that a
special meeting will be held to discuss the accident and examine whether all
safety regulations for school buses had been observed.
Judy Siegel and Greer Fay Cashman
contributed to this report.