PA health minister says IDF soldiers saw fatal schoolbus accident and didn’t help

Litzman slams Palestinian counterpart’s ‘words of falsehood and incitement’; number of casualties revised to 10, most of them Shuafat schoolchildren

A man comforts his injured daughter at a Ramallah hospital. (photo credit: Miriam Alster/Flash 90)
A man comforts his injured daughter at a Ramallah hospital. (photo credit: Miriam Alster/Flash 90)

A bus accident Thursday that claimed 10 lives, nine of them schoolchildren, and injured 40 more turned into a political controversy when the Palestinian Authority Health Minister accused Israeli soldiers standing the near the crash of failing to assist rescue efforts in the minutes immediately following the crash.

Channel 2 quoted Fathi Abu Mughli as saying that although several soldiers arrived at the site of the accident, they immediately returned to their posts rather than extending assistance.

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According to the report, Deputy Health Minister Ya’acov Litzman called his Palestinian counterpart’s remarks “undue words of falsehood and incitement,” commenting that Israeli rescue forces were immediately dispatched to the site and stressing that many of the injured were transferred to Israeli hospitals.

The bus was hit by a truck at the Adam junction north of Jerusalem. The bus, carrying children from Shuafat in East Jerusalem, was bound for a  school excursion in the Ramallah area. In bad weather on a slippery road, a truck careened into it, causing it to flip and catch fire. The children killed were aged four to six.

Palestinian and Israeli rescue teams work at a site of the accident. (photo credit: AP)

The bus that was struck, and another traveling with it from the same school, were overcrowded. according to Israeli media reports.

Israeli and Palestinian rescue teams transferred at least 30 casualties to hospitals in Ramallah, Petah Tikva and Jerusalem, Israel Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said. Israel Radio reported that it took rescue forces seven minutes to reach the scene of the accident. The truck driver was an Israeli Arab. Police said there was no suspicion of foul play.

Channel 10 News reported that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu offered his condolences and extended an offer of assistance to the Palestinian Authority. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas declared three days of national mourning following the accident, calling it “a national catastrophe.”

Israeli and Palestinian police are collaborating on the investigation.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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