REPORTING FROM RAMALLAH, WEST BANK –- At least six people, including five Palestinian chidren, were killed Thursday when their bus collided with a truck and overturned outside Ramallah during a school field trip.
Palestinian police and medics said the children, ages 4 to 7, and their teacher were killed instantly and another 30 children were injured, seven seriously. The accident, in which the bus caught fire after the collision, took place in rainy and foggy conditions.
Palestinian and Israeli emergency personnel cooperated in putting out the fire, treating injured children at the scene and evacuating them to hospitals in both Israeli and the Palestinian territory.
Israeli President Shimon Peres called his Palestinian counterpart, Mahmoud Abbas, to express his condolences and to offer whatever help was needed. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also issued a statement of condolence to the Palestinian Authority over the tragic deaths.
The Palestinian Authority declared a three-day mourning period and ordered flags flown at half-staff throughout the Palestinian territories.
Two busloads of children from a town east of Jerusalem were on their way to Ramallah when the accident occurred. There were no injuries on the second bus.
Some Palestinians blamed the school's principal for allowing the trips on a rainy day. The Palestinian Ministry of Education said it would hold an emergency session to look into the incident.
-- Maher Abukhater
Photo: Israeli and Palestinian rescue workers inspect the site of a crash between a truck and a school bus transporting Palestinian childre. Credit: Ahmad Gharabli / AFP/Getty Images