A truck lost control in slick, rainy weather and barreled into a Palestinian school bus on Thursday, killing five children and a teacher and drawing hundreds of people to a West Bank hospital in an outpouring of grief, police said.
The bus left the city of Ramallah on a school excursion but returned due to heavy rains and stormy weather, according to Palestinian police spokesman Yousif Osrael. On the way back, a truck careened into the school bus, causing it to flip and catch fire, Osrael said. The children killed were aged four to six.
The accident was in the central West Bank, in an area Palestinians claim as their future state but where Israel has full control. Both Israeli and Palestinian rescuers arrived at the scene, and evacuated at least 30 injured passengers to hospitals in Ramallah and Jerusalem, according to Israeli police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld.
The truck driver was an Arab Israeli and all the victims were Palestinian, Rosenfeld said. Israeli and Palestinian police are investigating the accident. But Rosenfeld said there is no suspicion of foul play and its likely that the wintry weather and slick roads caused the collision.
After the accident, Palestinians rushed to the Ramallah Medical Compound hospital to check on their children and donate blood.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas declared three days of mourning and ordered flags flown at half-staff. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu offered his condolences and pledged to give any aid necessary to the Palestinian Authority.
"It was a tragedy," Abbas said outside the hospital. "It was God's fate. There was rain and fog and that is what happened."
Palestinian police initially said the crash killed at least eight people but later updated the tally to six _ five schoolchildren and one teacher. Police said 42 were injured, including three in critical condition.