An Israeli truck has collided with a school bus near Ramallah in the occupied West Bank, killing at least ten Palestinians, nine of them are schoolchildren, and injuring 70 others. At least 20 people were seriously hurt and dozens more sustained varying degrees of injuries. Palestinian police said the bus collided with a truck near Jaba, causing it to flip over.
A witness told Israel Radio he saw the truck swerve head on into the bus. "The fire started in the front ... and we helped the children from the back. I saw many of them die immediately," he said.
Dr Ahmad Bitawi, director of Ramallah Hospital in the West Bank, said ten children and a teacher were pronounced dead at the facility, which also treated 54 people injured in the accident.
The Red Crescent said at least eight of the injured were in serious condition. They were treated at the Palestinian Medical Clinic as well as Jerusalem's Hadassah Hospital, medics said.
Both Palestinian and Israeli emergency services arrived at the scene of the accident, but commuters were the first to begin pulling people from the wreckage and putting out the fire.
Israeli and Palestinian emergency crews later cooperated in rescue efforts.
"Firefighters began to take bodies out of the bus. We saw there was nothing more to be done," said Shalom Galil, an Israeli paramedic at the scene.
Doron Yisraeli, head of the Israeli police traffic unit in the area, said it had been raining and the truck had braked and skidded into the bus on the road just north of Jerusalem.
"Human error, combined with the difficult conditions, led to lethal consequences," Yisraeli said.
President Mahmoud Abbas announced three days of mourning for victims of the crash and ordered Palestinian flags to fly 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," Abbas said.
Abbas sent his secretary Tayeb Abdul Rahim to meet with families of the victims. The minister of health and the prime minister in Ramallah, Salam Fayyad, are also speaking with relatives.
Israeli President spoke to President Abbas and expressed sorrow over the accident, Israeli media reported. "Israel will provide the victims with any medical aid necessary," he was quoted as saying.
Abbas thanked Peres for his comments and stressed "this is a great tragedy for the Palestinian people," Israel's Ynet news service reported. It said Israel's prime minister was also offering assistance.
Filippo Grandi, the commissioner-general of UNRWA, the UN's refugee agency, said in a statement he was "deeply saddened" by the tragedy near Qalandia.
"There is nothing more appalling to us and our communities than the needless deaths and suffering of innocent children. My condolences go out to the families and friends of the victims at this terrible time."
Meanwhile, Israeli news website ‘Walla’ reported on the accident on its ‘Facebook’ page. The news received racist comments by extremist Israelis rejoicing and celebrating the news.
Some Israelis commented on the news expressing joy and relief for the death of the children, saying “Thank God they are Palestinians,” “Great! Less terrorists!” while another said “Calm down, it’s a bus with Palestinian children, lets pray there will be deaths or at least severe injuries, this is great news to start the day with.”
The previous comments received heavy criticism by many users including Israelis, who expressed deep sorrow for the victims’ families and revolted against such racist reactions.
Users of many social networks deemed the comments of those extremist Israelis as “racist,” that reflected the Israeli deep-rooted hatred against Palestinians.